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Journal of Psychology 

Founded by G. Stanley Ham, in 1887. 

Vol. XI. JULY, 1900. No. 4. 


By Norman Tripi,btt, Fellow in Psychology, Clark University. 

This study is concerned with that portion of the field of 
magic which can be properly included under the term conjuring. 
For the purposes of this article, this may be broadly defined as 
the performance of wonderful or miraculous deeds of any sort 
under pretense of other than ordinary human agency. The 
subject will be treated in two parts. In the first chapter an 
effort is made, by the comparative method, to find in the deep 
lying instincts and impulses of the psychic life the basic ele- 
ments in conjuring. 

In the remaining portion of the work attention is given to mod- 
ern conjuring. In the large body of existing conjuring tricks 
is found much material of value to the psychologist. Many 
of these are perfect psychological experiments whose efficiency 
have been proved on thousands of people. About the profession 
of prestidigitation, as of other occupations, there has grown up 
a body of special knowledge, in part formulated into rules and 
practices, of which it is here the purpose to show the psycho- 
logical reason. The treatment of the subject will follow this 
outline : 

1. Origin of Conjuring. 

2. Classification and Typical Examples of Modern Conjur- 
ing Tricks. 

3. The Training of the Conjurer. 

4. Psychological Justification of the Rules and Practices of 
the Conjurer, treated under, (1.) Attention, (2.) Perception, 
(3.) Suggestion and Association, (4.) Suggestion and the I<aw 
of Economy. 

5. Sociological and Pedagogical Observations. 

44-0 TRIPLETT : 

Origin of Conjuring. 

In considering the elements of conjuring the view here ad- 
vanced is ( i . ) that at bottom it rests upon a universal instinct 
to deception — a biological tendency appearing throughout the 
animal world from simple forms to the highest orders, which 
acts as a constant force in the process of natural selection — as 
a means of preserving the self or species. This instinct, blind 
enough at the beginning, and to be classed as a deception only 
by reason of its effect, in the higher orders becomes implicated 
with an ever-increasing intelligence, ending with the conscious 
deceptions of man, which in him, find their widest range and 
their highest form. (2.) In the struggle of primitive man to 
increase his personality conjuring came into existence. Accord- 
ing to this view conjuring is deception ingrafted upon the 
religious instinct and thus given a supernatural coloring. 

The Instinct to Deceive. 

A division of all deceptions may be made into (1.) serious 
deceptions or those in which some form of selfishness appears, 
and (2.) deceptions of play. The group first named will be 
here noticed. Regarded biologically, these have in all cases as 
their common unifying principle that they serve, or have served 
in the past, the interests of the individual or species making 
use of them. From the psychological standpoint they are to 
be regarded as a manifestation of the instinctive struggle for 
power characteristic of every normal living organism — as an 
expression not only of the ' ' will to live ' ' but to live regnant. 

A complete review of the materials in proof of such an in- 
stinct is here impossible. It will serve the end in view to 
cross-section the stream of these activities at different levels for 
purposes of illustration. In the search for beginnings of de- 
ception no need is felt of groping back of instinct to consider 
the play of chemical forces within the protoplasm; nor to seek 
in tropisms nor in any form of irritability of the cell the origin 
of the phenomenon. It is enough to state the view of Schnei- 
der 1 and others who would do so, that the tendency to withdraw 
from the unpleasant in simple cell life is the source of all the 
self-protective impulses and reactions which are later developed, 
including that of flight; and that the tendency to expand to 
the agreeable differentiates into impulses and instincts of an 
aggressive kind, as fighting and reproduction. 

The facts of protective mimicry 2 are first to receive attention. 

1 Schneider, G. H. : Vierteljahrschaft fur wiss. Phil., Ill, p. 297. 

2 For the subject of Mimicry, see Bates, Naturalist on the Amazons; 
Wallace, Natural Selection, and Poulton, The Colors of Animals. 


Protective mimicry is the name given to a power of adaptation 
of form and color on the part of an animal species to that of its 
environment or to another species, which, from various reasons, 
as a disagreeable smell or nauseous taste, a sting or a hard 
integument, is immune from attack. Predaceous species, from 
which it is to the interest of the weak species to be concealed, 
are mimicked. On the other hand endless instances exist of 
predaceous insects being disguised to resemble their prey in 
shape and color. Indeed mimicry is universal among lower 
animals except in those cases where other means of defense 
exist. The reason for this as given by Darwin 1 is that they 
' ' cannot escape by flight from the larger animals which prey 
upon them, hence they are reduced like most weak creatures to 
trickery and dissimulation." Some small birds, reptiles and 
mammals which are weak in means of defense are also benefited 
by it. The Carnivores, also, which depend upon deceiving 
their prey, are nearly all colored to suit the enviroment. 

From the standpoint of evolution the importance of this 
power of adaptation is obvious: thus a closer approximation of 
form and color to the copy, by giving a better means of escape 
or of securing food, assures to its possessor a corresponding ad- 
vantage in the struggle. Modification in the direction of safety 
will, however, according to the law of parsimony, never be 
carried any further than is necessary to deceive the creature 
it is meant to deceive, but it must proceed that far else there is 
no protection. But what justification exists for calling the 
facts of mimicry deception ? Premising that the word decep- 
tion is not to be taken in animal activities with the same sig- 
nificance accorded to it in ethical discussions, but that it will 
connote more as we advance through the different grades of 
intelligence, it can be affirmed that the phenomena under dis- 
cussion are in their effect real deceptions. ' ' Naturally, ' ' Grant 
Allen 2 remarks, ' ' there can be no mimicry without a creature 
to deceive; the very conception implies an external nervous 
system to be acted upon, and to be acted upon deceptively." 
Important as is the assumption of similarity in form and color 
in the animal making use of it, not less so from an evolutionary 
standpoint, is the group of associated habits developed to give 
it a proper stage setting and without which indeed the masquer 
would assume a vain role. 

In the lower forms exhibiting mimicry the motor aspect is 
of a simple reflex type and the deception involved is uncon- 
scious. As Morgan 8 says, ' ' Mimicry is biological not psy- 
chological. ' ' The Kollima butterfly, mentioned by Bates, whose 

1 Naturalist on Amazons. Letter to Bates. Memoirs. 

2 Grant Allen : Art. Mimicry, Encyc. Brit. 

3 Morgan C. Lloyd : In. Com. Psych., p 97. 


folded wings exactly resemble dead leaves when alighting, 
feels the innate necessity of alighting only among dead leaves 
of its own color. So also the long green pipe-fish, with its 
prehensile tail, clings only to green seaweed, for only then is its 
color protective. So the green lizard seeks the grass and the 
brown lizard the sand. In these associated habits is found the 
basis for calling mimicry deception. 

A group of phenomena of an apparently self-preservative 
character is the so-called death feigning of certain animals. 
Among those animals possessing the characteristic have been 
named, spiders, coleopters, caterpillars, snakes, turtles, fishes, 
numerous birds, and several mammals, among which are the 
monkeys, foxes, opossums, and possibly red squirrels. Hudson 1 
says, " When a fox is caught in a trap or run down by dogs, 
he fights savagely at first, but by and by relaxes his efforts, 
drops on the ground and apparently yields up the ghost. The 
deception is so well carried out that dogs are constantly taken 
in by it, and no one not previously acquainted with the clever 
trick of nature, but would at once pronounce the creature dead. 
Now, when in this condition of feigning death, I am quite sure 
that the animal does not altogether lose consciousness. It is 
exceedingly difficult to discover any evidence of life in the opos- 
sum, but when one withdraws a little way from the feigning fox 
and watches him very attentively, a slight opening of the eye 
may be detected and, finally, when left to himself, he does not 
recover and start up like an animal that has been stunned, but 
slowly and cautiously raises his head first, and only gets up 
when his foes are at a safe distance. ' ' He states that in some 
cases the swoon comes on before the animal has been touched. 

Without going into the merits of the controversy which is 
still unsettled, as to whether the activity in question is of a 
cataleptic nature as Couch, Preyer, and others maintain, or is 
a true manifestation of instinct, the writer inclines to the latter 
side of the case. From all the data at hand the trait under 
discussion appears to be a serious stratagem evolved to serve 
a useful end. Among those holding this view is Lloyd Morgan, 2 
who thinks the collapse of extreme dread has its protective 
value in the case of animals that sham dead and that it has 
been organized through natural selection into an instinctive 
response of stillness and limpness and that ' ' the same stimulus 
may give rise at the same time to instinctive reactions and to the 
visceral reaction essential to emotion, the two inseparably con- 
nected in origin. The result is that the instinctive data and 
emotional data are simultaneously presented to consciousness 
and their association is of the closest possible nature. With 

iHudson, W. H. : The Naturalist in La Platte, p. 202. 
s Morgan : Habit and Instinct, p. 206. 


the growth of experience this constant association is yet fur- 
ther strengthend and the motor and visceral effects are yet 
further consolidated, so that each tends to supplement and 
re-enforce the other. ' ' 

A group of deceptions serving for the protection of the species 
is to be observed in the case of many creatures not sufficiently 
strong to fight off enemies. It is a well known trait of cer- 
tain birds to flutter off the nest when disturbed and by simula- 
ting a broken wing to draw the intruder away from the eggs or 
young, flying away when at a safe distance with no pretense 
of lameness. ' ' Such tactics, ' ' I^loyd Morgan 1 remarks, ' ' are 
not restricted to one or two species. They are common, no 
doubt, with diversities of detail to such different birds as grouse, 
pigeons, lapwings, rails, avocets, pipets, ducks, buntings and 
warblers." Among American birds the habit has been ob- 
served in the case of several species of the partridge family, 
doves, vesper sparrows, whippoorwills, bobolinks, the plovers, 
rails, and allied species. The simulation of helplessness is a 
perfect device, at least so far as dogs are concerned. They 
seem never to get too old or too wise to start a pursuit. The 
impulse to react at sight of the fluttering bird is too strong to 
be resisted. Many ingenious variations of this instinct exist 
among other species. Clever ruses are also employed by many 
to conceal the nest. The care of the turkey hen to hide her 
nest and the various artifices she employs to throw a watcher 
off the clue, no one knows better than the farmer's boy who 
has been set the task of tracing her to the nest. 

Wild animals, whose very existence hangs on the continued 
exercise of craft or strategic skill, can be cited endlessly in illus- 
tration of the fact that the battle is not always to the strong, 
but that life is very largely a war of wits. Everywhere we see 
the cunning devices used in attack and the counter devices of 
escape. They but emphasize the general fact that these decep- 
tions are not sporadic cases; special developments for the pro- 
tection of a few species making use of them. A deeper insight 
into the underlying forces maintaining the equilibrium in the 
vast complexus of animal life must be gained before a positive 
statement is warranted, but from the fact that they are the nor- 
mal reaction of most animals under conditions tending to lessen 
well-being, or safet)', it seems not too hypothetical to say that 
the impulse to deceive is a general expression of a biological 
principle existing throughout the animal world, and that it is 
a very large factor in the push upward. 

Domesticated animals have all preserved this tendency to fall 
back on deception when comfort is threatened, as several hun- 


444 Triplett : 

dred observations which the writer has gathered show. On a 
census of these the dog seems, from the number and versatility 
of its tricks, to be the chief trickster in the animal world, proba- 
bly because he is most open to observations of this sort. 

Popularly it is thought that the dog in many cases is guilty 
of conscious deception. While it is, perhaps, safer on the whole, 
to explain, as Morgan 1 does, most of the observed deceptions as 
due to associations formed in sense-experience, it is, neverthe- 
less, only fair to leave the judgment unexpressed regarding a 
large number of instances seeming to show a conscious intent 
to deceive. It is not so easy to believe there is no actual decep- 
tion in cases like this described by Groos. 2 He says: " I once 
saw one (dog) drop a piece of bread that he would not eat on the 
ground and lie down on it, then with an air of great innocence 
pretend to be looking for it. ' ' 

From a summary of more than one hundred cases of canine 
craft the only point here emphasized is the fact of their selfish 
content. In families where the dog-churn was used, it was 
common for the motive power to absent himself early on the 
morning of churning day and hide out till night. To avoid 
being put out at night dogs and cats also will frequently hide in 
a dark room or behind furniture as the regular time approaches. 
They conceal themselves, also, to avoid baths or anything un- 
pleasant. If unwilling to chase a cat that has given him proof of 
her prowess, or to do any distasteful task, the dog makes a great 
pretense of not knowing what is desired of him, but he assumes 
an anxiety to know; when spoken to sharply, however, he 
goes with a conscious guilty air and does what is required of 
him. When an old dog has been roughly used in play by a 
boy, or when busy with his bone or aware that he is to be shut 
up or sent after the cows or punished, he makes use of the child- 
ish resource of pretending not to hear. Often when caught in 
flagrante delicto the dog employs various means of avoiding 
chastisement. A terrier of superior intelligence, owned by the 
writer, at such times tried to change the subject by assuming a 
mood of frolicksome gaiety and executing a series of comical 
antics calculated to give a suggestion of amity. Frequently 
when scolded, like the King Charles spaniel cited by Romanes, 
the dog pretends to be very lame or in great pain. This dodge 
is especially tried where he has gained sympathy from a former 
wound. Lameness is also feigned by dogs wishing to ride in a 
vehicle, as it is by children wishing to be carried. 

Many of these tricks of the dog and other domesticated ani- 
mals seem far removed from the instinctive deceptions of wild 

1 Morgan C. Lloyd: In. Com. Psych., p. 371. 
2 Groos: The Play of Animals, p. 297. 


animals. The essence of the act, however, appears to be the 
same, being an effort to better adapt themselves to their sur- 
roundings to increase their own comfort or pleasure, and, as 
such, are surely based on the old tendencies brought down from 
a former wild state. 

If the statement that in some one of the lower animals may be 
found the germ of every human faculty is correct, then it seems 
not unreasonable to expect that activities so general and so 
important, as those just described, will have large place in the 
higher realm of life, or plainly that human deceptions will be 
found to possess the same instinctive character. 

Deceptions in Children. 

Of a collection of more than three hundred observations of 
spontaneous fooling or deceiving by children, a large majority 
were found to relate to children under three years of age. The 
cases exhibit an almost half and half ratio between the rubrics 
of spontaneous play activity and deceitful acts which involve an 
element of selfishness. A study of the latter group shows clearly 
the kinship existing between animal and child life. Children 
instinctively make the same responses to conditions affecting 
their pleasure or well-being, oftentimes in the identical form. 
Numerous cases show the use that is made of the ' ' ostrich 
trick." " A little girl, past one year old, continued to chew 
paper whenever she could get it, notwithstanding her punish- 
ment. She used to stand up with her face to the wall chewing 
paper, evidently thinking because she saw no one, no one saw 
her, for if any one came and turned her around she would try 
to hide the paper which was left. ' ' Another forbidden to eat 
green fruit ' ' lay down by the fence with the pear under her, 
perhaps thinking she would escape observation. ' ' This trait 
appears in various forms, and precedes real hiding which comes 
later. Shutting the eyes is common, holding the hand or an 
article before the eyes, and hiding the face in some one's lap or 
shoulder. Babies when frightened or diffident, or sometimes 
when scolded, hide the face on the mother's shoulder. So when 
tickled the face is hidden or eyes closed possibly as a means of 
escape from the annoyance. It is well known that sensitive 
dogs when scolded will hide their eyes in their paws or close 
them, and it may be for the same reason. 

It is hard to analyze the action, but it seems evident tha to 
the child the world comes and goes at will with the opening or 
shutting of the eyes. When he shuts his eyes he makes it 
dark, so that no one can see. This limiting reality to the range 
of his own vision may become the basis of various attempts 
at deception. This resource is employed to escape punish- 
ment for a fault, as in the instance where a child had cut the 


table cloth into strips: " when her mother discovered her she 
threw the shears down and covered her head with her arms." 
In clashes of personality, where children do not wish to be 
compelled to drop what they are engaged in, or to comply 
with distasteful commands, where censure is expected, and in 
many similar cases they refuse to answer when called or they 

Fear of punishment is the motive for the invention of many 
lies and acts of deceit, as most persons can testify, who will run 
back in memory over the events of their childhood. Some 
children committing a fault resort to tactics similar to those of 
the dog mentioned above. They take to kissing and caressing. 
Pretended illness often follows the doing of an act for which 
punishment is expected, though doubtless in the case of sensi- 
tive children it may at times become real enough. Where there 
is a desire to enlist sympathy or attract attention, or where 
pleasant remedies, such as wintergreen are used, this pretense 
is common. I^ater if school life is disliked, the child makes a 
great pretense of being ill, but will still be able to play around 
all day. On this point Dr. Hall * remarks: "The long list of 
headaches, nosebleeds, stomachaches, etc., feigned to get out 
of or to avoid going to school, of false excuses for absences and 
tardiness, the teacher especially, if disliked, being so often ex- 
ceptionally fair game for all the arts of deception, all this seems 
generally prevalent. This class of lies ease children over so 
many hard places in life and are convenient covers for weakness 
and even vice. ' ' With school age the child enters upon a new 
life. He begins a struggle with social forces before unknown 
to him. His mental activities now find a wider scope and a 
fuller development, and along with a growing intelligence the 
deceptions become more complex, though still plainly of the 
same instinctive character. They are in all essential respects 
the same as those of animals and young children. They are 
the outgrowths of impulses directly or indirectly self-preserva- 
tive and to go no further back, are doubtless reminiscent of 
man's life in past ages when chiefly by his nimble wit he could 
survive in the war of all against all. 

There is little need to follow these deceptions up to their 
adult form. They crop out in every phase of our community 
life as a manifestation of the instinct to gain power or wealth 
and all that they make possible, and if indeed the present shows 
this tendency in an unusual degree, as Mantagazza 2 and others 
assert, it is because the conditions of life are becoming more 
difficult and by reason of the sterner competition are forcing 

1 Hall, G. S.: Children's Lies. Am. Jour. Psych., Vol. Ill, No. i. 
2 Mantagazza : The Tartuffian Age. Nordau: Die Luegen. 


man to rely to a greater extent upon those innate animal im- 
pulses which the canons of morality among civilized races 

Our commercial life is redolent of fraud from our gigantic 
infant industries with their specious pleas of inability to com- 
pete with foreigners, to the small grocer who is made by Puck 
to ask the clerk if he has sanded the sugar, larded the butter, 
and gravelled the coffee, and on being answered in the affirma- 
tive tells him to come into prayers. The political corruption 
in our large cities, the peculiar methods by which United States 
senators frequently gain their seats, and even the struggle for 
supremacy or survival between nations — not always carried on 
by force in the field, but by crafty diplomats intriguing behind 
closed doors to form combinations against the peace and pros- 
perity of their neighbors — all this is commonplace. Yet a large 
view of these deceptions as of the others presented justifies the 
assertion, that they are of a piece throughout. 

Relation of Deception to Conjuring. 

The statement was made on a previous page that conjuring 
is based on two atavistic tendencies : The one which appears in 
nature as a general instinct to deceive has been sufficiently set 
forth. It yet remains to establish the other assertion, which 
was in effect, that primitive conjuring was the deceptive per- 
formances of priests become miracle by the religious superstitions 
of a deluded people. 

The evolution of the sacred conjurer is made possible by the 
animistic tendencies of all savage peoples, among whom is de- 
veloped a belief in spiritual beings of an elementary sort inhab- 
iting stones, trees, animals or men. Extraordinary powers of 
body or mind in an individual, are due to an incarnate spirit — 
an ancestral ghost. Hence, arises the general doctrine of inspi- 
ration. Existing primitive races still believe that the priest 
when inspired ceases to act or speak as a voluntary agent, but 
moves and speaks as entirely under supernatural influence. 
From inspiration to divination is but a short step. It is simply 
the inspired man using his power for particular ends. His 
power as an exorcist arises from the belief that the priest by 
the aid of good spirits may eject the spirit of an enemy which 
has entered a man's body. This power proves available for 
other purposes. He asks why not revenge himself on enemies 
or invoke the spirit's aid in other matters of advantage to him- 
self? There is thus initiated sorcery 1 and thaumaturgy. 

Up to what stage self-deception is an element in religious con- 
juring it is not easy to say. That it should be present to some 

1 Herbert Spencer: Data of Sociology, Vol. I, Chap. 18. 


degree among modern savages is not surprising when regard is 
had to the means of attaining to the office of priest. This, among 
nearly all savage peoples, is gained through the practice of some 
form of shamanism. This state may be brought on by fasting, 
the use of drugs, whirling, dancing, singing, beating drums or 
other means of producing abnormal excitement — the condition 
of inspiration. Since, however, it is also the ' ' mise en scene ' ' 
for the innumerable deceptions practiced upon their deluded 
followers, there must, in general, grow up a very large element 
of conscious fraud; but where self-deception leaves off and con- 
cious deception begins it is impossible to distinguish. 

The psychological reasons impelling to priestly conj uring are all 
those motivated by the struggle for power anywhere. Power per- 
mits of revenge; it brings wealth and a host of euphoriac concomi- 
tants, such as pride of position, reverence, homage, praise and 
other elements tending to exalt personality. That it is a means to 
wealth is seen in many tribes of the present day. ' 'Among the 
Zulus 1 the spirit doctors discharge a sacerdotal function, offering 
up sacrifices for which their mercenary spirit leads them to de- 
mand good pay. ' ' These crafty izanusi do not go into Hades 
(when giving oracles) for nothing. A large fat ox is gen- 
erally the reward and often a goat beside." Tylor, 2 speaking 
of the priest as conjurer in connection with ceremonial ordinan- 
ces says: "more usually it is the priest who as minister of the 
deities has the lion's share of the offering or the sole privilege of 
consuming them; from the Figian priest who watches for the 
turtle and puddings apportioned to his god; and the West 
African priest who carries the allowances of food sent to the 
local spirits of mountain, or river or grove, which food he eats 
himself as the river's proxy, to the Brahmin who receives for 
the divine ancestor the oblation of a worshipper who has no 
sacred fire to consume it. ' For there is no difference between 
the fire and a Brahman, such is the judgment declared by them 
who know the Veda. ' ' ' Among the Andaman 8 Islanders ' ' the 
priest inculcates the belief that he can bring sickness or death 
upon those who fail to show their belief in him in some substantial 
form." In Australia 4 the business is profitably worked by one 
sorcerer charming bits of quartz into the victim's body so that 
another has to be sent for to get them out. This imposture is 
interesting because in various forms it is common in nearly all 
parts of the world. The articles generally extracted are bones, 
bits of wood, stones, lizards and balls of hair. 

Besides its material benefits the calling of the conjurer min- 

1 Tyler J. : " Forty Years among the Zulus," p, ioo. 

2 Tylor: Primitive Culture, Vol. II, p. 379. 

3 Man, E. H. : Aboriginal Inhabitants of the Andaman Islands. 

4 Grey's Journal of Travel, Vol. II, p. 337. 


isters to his self-importance. With all this priestly class there 
appears a love of showing off and filling the public eye, just as 
with the Flagellants who pretended to lash the blood from their 
own backs, or of the Fakirs of India who are such because of 
the distinction it gives them. Self-advertising is not the least 
of the conjurer's gifts whether ancient or modern. There is 
apparently, much more in the priests' impudent assertion of 
power than in their actual manifestation of it, as many of their 
feats are exceedingly trivial. But like every act of deception 
they seem to contain a pleasureable element. It may be true 
as Groos 1 says it is of all animal play that the pleasure is in 
satisfying an instinct and in being a cause. The evidence for 
the pleasure in modern conjuring is not hard to find. Robert 
Houdin constantly refers to its fascination. It has been said of 
Hermann that he was never so happy as when he went to 
orphan asylums or about the streets playing his tricks on chil- 
dren, policemen and shopkeepers. Kellar also assures the writer 
that his profession possesses an intense fascination for him. 

Among the people of remotest antiquity the most unique de- 
ceptions the meager history of the times reveals are those per- 
formed under the guise of religion. Priestcraft and thauma- 
turgy, the first including the second, always held in view one 
great end: namely, the acquisition of power, veneration and 
obedience. To its attainment no scruple was permitted to restrict 
the means. All the resources of legerdemain, cabalistic rites 
and imposture of every sort were employed, besides natural 
phenomena and the facts of true science. All were given a sem- 
blance of the supernatural and were invested with an inviolable 
secrecy maintained by the use of a particular language, figura- 
tive expressions, emblems and allegories, and a dramatic setting 
such as the construction of their temples made possible. All 
combining to form a veil of mystery and acting powerfully to 
paralyze the critical faculty of minds not too acute in that naive 

The priests of antiquity were the conservators of learning. 
They alone possessed the highest knowledge, zealously pre- 
served from profanation in the service of the gods by an impene- 
trable mystery. Indeed, it is only in comparatively recent 
times that knowledge has been allowed to filter out to the 
common people. Even Pythagoras and Plato did not believe 
in the fitness of the vulgar to receive truth. The priests 
exploited the secrets of science for a thousand years, at least, 
to maintain their religion and their own power. In the Chris- 
tian era, on the contrary, as Andrew D. White 2 has shown, for 

1 Groos : Play of Animals. 

2 White, Andrew D.: Warfare of Science and Religion. 


fifteen hundred years science was completely smothered by the 
antagonism of the church and regarded as sorcery. 

The preliminary chapters of a history of the sciences must 
show their magical origin; while a history of old forms of thau- 
maturgical art, on the other hand, is a history of the origin of 
science. And not the least interesting fact connected with either 
is in showing how arts which come into common use may pass 
for divination and magic so long as the secret of their operation 
is the knowledge of but a few individuals. The oldest traces of 
magic are found in the records of Egypt, Chaldea and Baby- 
lonia. Among these nations sorcery and magical astrology are 
as old as their history. Astrology is well called the mother of 
science, for while it is true that the Chaldeans studied the stars 
for purposes of conjuration, their observations led to the science 
of astronomy. Medicine is also discovered to have had a mag- 
ical origin. According to Sprengel, 1 "The highest healing 
power which acts not through palpable means, but by the aid 
of the will, was practiced by the priests of the highest rank; they 
were the soothsayers and sages, and knew how to produce many 
supernatural effects. ' ' They declared that the means to be used 
and the issue were revealed through prophecies. "In Egypt, 
more than in any other country, we find that physic is connected 
with religion and the priesthood." 

Some of the positive sciences had their birth in the temples 
of the ancient religions. The miracles performed during the 
initiatory rites of the sacred mysteries are to be explained as 
physical and chemical effects. From descriptions which have 
come down to us of the phantasmagorial procession of the divini- 
ties we can easily discern the use of the principles of optics. Sir 
David Brewster 2 says on this subject that there can be little 
doubt that the concave mirror was the principal instrument 
used in connection with the pretended apparitions of the gods 
and goddesses in the ancient temples. In the scanty refer- 
ences to these apparitions which we possess is clearly seen the 
traces of an optical illusion. Pliny mentions that in the ancient 
temples of Hercules at Tyre there was a certain seat made of 
a consecrated stone ' ' from which the gods arose. ' ' ^Esculapius 
was often exhibited to his worshippers in his temple at Ephesus 
in a similar manner. Jamblicus tells us that the priests showed 
the gods to the people in the midst of smoke, the smoke evi- 
dently serving as a background on which to project the reflected 
images. 8 

1 Sprengel: Geschichte der Arzneikunde, Vol. I, p. 71. 

2 Brewster: Letters on Natural Magic. 

8 For the reference to this phase of Magic see Ennemoser, History of 
Magic ; Lenormant, Chaldean Magic and Sorcery ; White, Andrew D., 
Warfare of Religion and Science ; Lehman, A., Aberglaube und Zau- 


The science of acoustics also furnished the ancient sorcerers 
with some of their best effects. The imitation of thunder in 
some of their subterranean temples could not fail to indicate 
the presence of a supernatural agent. The golden virgins whose 
voices resounded through the temple of Delphos; the stone from 
the river Pactolus whose trumpet notes scared the robbers from 
the treasure which it guarded ; the speaking-head which uttered 
its oracular responses at Lesbos; and the vocal statue of Mem- 
non, which began at the break of day to accost the rising sun ; 
the statues of the gods and the walls near them, discovered by 
explorers, possessing secret passages by which the priests could 
enter to deliver the oracles, are a few cases of this sort. 

The principles of hydrostatics also were available in the work 
of magical deception. The marvellous fountain which Pliny 
describes in the Island of Andros as discharging wine for seven 
days and water during the rest of the year; the spring of 
oil which broke out in Rome to welcome the return of Augus- 
tus from the Sicilian war; the three empty urns which filled 
themselves with wine at the annual feast of Bacchus in the city 
of Elis; the weeping statues and the perpetual lamps of the 
ancients, were all the obvious effects of the principle of the equi- 
librium and pressure of fluids. 

Chemical agents seem to have been used, if ancient litera- 
ture is to be relied on for information. We recall the vengeance 
wreaked by Medea by means of her chemical jacket. Many 
examples of self-kindling altars are given, the explanation of 
which, as advanced by Salverte, 1 is that a petroleum or naphtha 
product was used, such as is still found in certain regions of 
that country. The apparent miracle which was worked in the 
sanctuary at Gnotia, where the incense kindled of itself in honor 
of the gods, and of which Horace and Pliny are so incredulous, 
was a feat easily to be compassed by the priestly jugglers. 

A similar explanation will serve for the cases observed by 
Pausanius in two cities of Lydia, the inhabitants of which, 
subjected to the yoke of the Persians had embraced the religion 
of the Magi. " In a chapel, ' ' he says, " is an altar upon which 
there are always ashes that in color do not resemble any others. 
The Magi placed some wood upon the altar and invoked I know 
not what gods by orisons taken from a book written in a barbar- 
ous language unknown to the Greeks. The wood soon ignited 
of itself without fire and the flame of it was very brilliant." 

We have now finished the portion of this study specially de- 
voted to the serious deceptions of conjuring. Under various 

berei ; Frost, I/ives of the Conjurers ; and Hopkins, Magic and Stage 
1 Salverte, E.: The Occult Science, etc. 


forms not always distinctly religious, except in so far as all 
superstition is akin to religion, they continue down to the middle 
ages. Indeed history reveals how the destinies of a nation 
were in more than one instance subject to the scheming of a 
conjurer in the king's closet. They are in evidence in the 
performances of the latter part of that strange romantic 
eighteenth century of skepticism and credulity when the rotten 
fabric of French society was about to crumble under the storm 
of revolution. The society of the time, with overwrought 
imagination, hungering for miracles, offered themselves to every 
impostor as ready victims. Charles Kingsley says that this 
period ' ' which is usually held to be the most materialistic of 
epochs, was, in fact, a most spiritualistic one. ' ' Imbert Saint 
Amand, 1 says ' ' The mania for the supernatural, the rage for the 
marvellous, prevailed in the last years of the eighteenth century 
which had wantonly derided every sacred thing. Never were the 
Rosicrucians, the adepts, sorcerers, and prophets so numerous, 
and so respected. Serious and educated men, magistrates, court- 
iers, declared themselves eye-witnesses of alleged miracles. When 
Cagliostro came to France he found the ground prepared for 
his magical operations. A society eager for distractions, and 
emotions, indulged to every form of extravagance necessarily 
welcomed such a man and bailed him as its guide." Cagliostro 
was the last great pretender to magic and sorcery, and also the 
forerunner of our modern spirit mediums, who exhibit a phase 
of deception which will be noticed to some extent in the second 
part of this study which deals with modern conjuring. He 
raised the shades of the illustrious dead, told fortunes, predicted 
lucky numbers in the lottery, transmuted metals, and founded 
occult lodges of Egyptian masonry for the regeneration of man- 
kind. He manufactured elixirs of life, and reaped an abundant 
harvest by professing the art of making old people young. He 
pretended to be of great age; saw Rome burned under Nero, 
and witnessed the crucifixion of Christ. 

Modern Conjuring. 

Modern conjuring is motivated in large part by the same 
elements appearing in other play. It is doing for entertainment 
what once was regarded as serious miracle. This is true, how- 
ever, only of conjuring proper. The shows of the spiritualistic 
mediums are still as of old deceptions of a serious nature. 

The history of conjuring for entertainment takes us back at 
least to the middle ages where jugglers in connection with 

1 Saint Amand, Imbert : Marie Antoinette and the End of the Old 


their acts of skill exhibited many curious feats at fairs and on 
the streets. During the eighteenth century the conjurers came 
into greater estimation with the public, and gave performances 
from the stage, while the jugglers were left to an itinerant and 
more obscure life. 

Many of the pieces of modern performers were presented by 
the wizards of the last century. Sechel's print of Bartholomew 
Fair for 1732 shows Falkes to have been the great conjurer of 
the time. He exhibited among other things the now famous 
' ' flower trick ' ' of the Indian conj urers. A swarm of conj urers 
during the last half of the century strove for recognition. One 
of this fraternity described by Cowper was Katterfelto ' ' with 
his hair on end at his own wonders, wondering for his bread. ' ' 
They dealt largely in feats of dexterity with cards, numbers, 
dice, rings, etc., and also found profit in the exhibition of au- 
tomata. A new epoch began with Pinetti, 1783. His tricks 
were invented by him, and from that time until Houdin came 
upon the stage, false bottom tricks, of which there were above 
forty, were much in vogue. The greatest reform in the art of 
conjuring was effected by the genius of Robert Houdin. What- 
ever advancement has been made since his time has been along 
the lines laid down by him, and are largely the result of the 
growth of science. Prior to his day the wizards draped 
their tables to the floor, making of them hiding places for con- 
federates. He used an undraped center table, and two light 
stands at the sides. He discarded the long flowing robes of his 
predecessors and appeared in evening dress. Since his time no 
first-class performer has dared to return to the former mode. 

Classification of Conjuring Deceptions. 

The plan employed in the classification of the tricks is taken 
from the standpoint of the performer, having regard to the 
means used in working the illusion. A grouping according to 
the psychical processes involved was not possible for the reason 
that somewhat the same elements entered into a majority of the 
illusions. A strict psychological classification that suggested 
itself as possible was a division into ( 1 ) Positive illusions — in 
which the spectator believes he sees something which does not 
take place — an example of which is the thrown card disappear- 
ing in the air. (2) Negative illusions, or those feats in which 
the changes are made but are unseen by the spectator. The 
division would have no practical value as all but a very small 
number are found in the second division. 

The list presented is not exhaustive but contains the majority 
of the better known illusions, and at least is sufficient to repre- 
sent the different classes. Nothing more is claimed for it. It 
is apparent that many tricks could be classified under several 

454 Triplett : 

heads; in general, however, their place was determined by the 
most predominant feature. 1 

Tricks Involving Scientific Principles. 

Optical Illusions. 1-234. Modern Black Art. 2-55. Cabaret duNeant or 
Tavern of the Dead. 2-61. Amphitrite. 2-63. The Mystery of Dr. Lynn. 
2-81. Houdin's Magic Cabinet. 2-520. Gone. 5-60. Maid of Athens. 
6-31. Denstone's Metempsychosis. 7-136. The Mermaid's Head. 2-60. 
The Three-headed Woman. 2-69. The Talking Head. 2-69. The Liv- 
ing Half-woman. 2-72. She. 2-79. The Queen of Flowers. 2-77. The 
Decapitated Princess. Stella, a variant of above. 2-84. The Mystic 
Maze. 2-86. The Platinized Glass Illusion. 2-88. Marguerite and 
Faust. 5-21. The Vanished Mirror and Spectral Demon. 5-32. Birth 
of Venus. 5-49. The Water and Ink Trick. 5-50. Valensin's Fish- 
bowl Trick. 5-5. The Blackboard Feat. 2-523. The Spider and the 
Fly. 7-46. Spirit Medium Reading Question by Means of Mirrors. 
9-53. The Cards Revealed by the Looking-glass. 

Acoustics. 2-102. The Invisible Woman. 2-103. The Magic Harps. 
5-30. The Spirit Bell. 4-91. Poe's Raven in the Garland of Thebes. 
4-36. Kellar's New Karmos. 2-170. Animated Puppets. 9-222. The 
Mesmerized Watch. 9-159. A coin being spun upon the table to tell 
blindfold whether it falls head or tail upwards. 

Electrical. 7-62. The Educated Fly. 7-77. Spirit Telegraphy. 2-96. 
The Neo-occultism. 2-100. The Mask of Balsamo. 3-109. The Obe- 
dient Padlock. 3-114. The Demon Candlesticks. 3-122. The Spiritual- 
istic Cash Box. 3-130. The Magic Clock. 3-135. Spirit Chirography. 
9-483. The Light and Heavy Chest. 9-485. Spirit Rapping, The Magic 
Bell, The Magic Drum and many variations. 

Chemical. 3-71. The Enchanted Sun Glass. 3-79. The Mysterious 
Goblet. 3-87. The Miniature Inferno. 3-98. The Strange Disappear- 
ance. 2-108 The Magic Rosebush. 7-7. Invisible Writing Brought 
out on a Single Slate. 7-1 1. Spirit Writing. 7-43. The Caustic Pencil 
Trick. 7-49. Spirit Writing on Held Slate. 7-51. Reading Questions 
in Sealed Envelopes. 7-132. The Mysterious Vase. 5-37. Blood and 
Water Trick. 5-39. Wine, Ink and Blueing Trick. 2-134. The Wine 
Changed to Water. 5-8. Transmigration of Smoke. 4-30. Spirit Pict- 
ures. 5-34. A Spirit Vision. 5-57. The Flash of Flame. 5-58. Balloon 

Mechanical Tricks (many of them with sleight of hand features). 
1-149. The Magic Card Bottle. 1-152. All Nations in one Bottle. 1-208. 
The Magi's Wand. 1-230. The Indian Mail. 1-245. The Enchanted 
Organ. 1-261. The Cocoon. 2-27. Vanity Fair. 2-31. After the Flood. 
2-34. The Magic Palanquin. 2-35. Cassadoga Propaganda. 2-39. The 
Appearing and Disappearing Lady. 2-44. The Mysterious Trunk. 
2-46. The Indian Basket Trick. 2-89. Trilby. 2-91. The " Haunted 
Swing." 2-136. The Sand Frame Trick. 2-137. Houdin's Magic Ball. 
2-367. Psycho. Mechanical Chess-player. 2-369. The Kempelen Chess 
Player. 2-374. The Juggling Automaton. 2-376. The Toy Artist. 

x In the classification the first number given refers to the book, and 
the second to the page where found. No. 1. Burlingame, " Hermann, 
the Magician." No. 2. Hopkins, "Magic, Stage Illusions and Scien- 
tific Diversions.'' No. 3. Hopkins, "The Twentieth Century Magic." 
Nos. 4, 5 and 6. Burlingame, " Tricks of Magic " in three vols. No. 
7. Robinson, " Spirit Slate-writing." No. 8. " Revelations of a Spirit 
Medium." No. 9. Hoffmann, "Modern Magic," No. 10. Hoffmann, 
" More Magic." 


2-519. The Magic Table. 3-29. The Flight of the Timepieces. 3-47. 
The Magical Balance. 3-56. The Salem Seamstress. 4-6. Mephisto's 
Glass Cylinder. 4-14. Ice Freezing Extraordinary. 4-18. The Mag- 
netized Chair. 4-29. The Mystery of L'Hassa. 4-31. Shrine of Koonira 
Sami. 4-34. Great Mahatma Miracle. 4-81. The Mango Tree Trick. 
4-85. Rapid Transit. 4-87. The Oriental Barrel Mystery. 4-87. The 
Artist's Dream. 4-92. Samuel's Cartomantic Floral Charm. 4-92. 
Flowers Transformed. 5-8. Instantaneous Flower Production. 5-29. 
Magical Appearance of Bouquet. 5-30. The Changing Cards. 5-33. The 
Magical Monk. 5-33. Artistic Metagenesis. 5-34. Fortune Telling 
Coin Tumbler. 5-35. Another Artist's Dream. 5-39. Flowers of Yaggi. 
5-40. Egyptian Incubator. 5-42. Box and Die Trick . 5-50. Apple and 
Orange Trick. 5-51. Comical Box. 5-53. Flowers from a Cone. 5-54. 
Inexhaustible Box. 5-62. Vivisection. 6-1. Buatier's Human Cage. 
6-11. Maskelyne's Spiritualistic Couch. 6-19. The Climbing Ring. 
7-53. To Answer Questions Written and Kept in Pocket. 7-74. Houdin's 
Floating Piano and Performer. 7-101. Horatio Eddy's Light Seance. 
7-1 10. The Wire Cage Test. 7-143. Cupid Lighter Than a Butterfly. 
9-139. Tricks Performed by Means of the Changing Card Boxes. 9-187. 
The Vanishing Coin Box, The Rattle Box, and many others on the false 
bottom principle. 9-195. Laniouchoir du Diable. 9-202. The Miracu- 
lous Casket. 9-203. The Coin Wand. 9-215. The Watch Mortar and 
the Magic Pistol. 9-217. The Snuff Box Vase. 9-220. The Watch Tar- 
get. 9-234. The Magic Rose. 9-246. The Burning Globe. 9-258. The 
Magic Laundry. 9-296. The Red and Black Ball Vase Vanish, many 
variants. 9-330. The Pillars of Solomon. 9-333. The Magic Coffin. 
9-335. The Bran and Orange Trick. 9-337. The Rice, Cone, and Orange 
Trick. 9-342. The Magic Mill. 9-372. The Bowl of Ink Changed to 
Clear Water. 9-373. The Inexhaustible Bottle. 9-377. The New Pyra- 
mids of Egypt. 0-380. The Box of Bran Transformed to a Bottle of 
Wine. 9-385. To Fire Borrowed Rings from a Pistol and Make Them 
Pass into a Goblet filled with Bran, the Bran disappearing and being 
found elsewhere. 9-388. The Coffee Trick. 9-400. The Rose in a Glass 
Vase. 9-424. The Vanishing Canary Bird and Cage. 9-435. The Passee- 
Passee Trick. 9-454. The Fairy Star and the Card Bouquet. 9-458. The 
Demon's Head. 9-462. The Magic Picture Frame. 9-467. The Magic 
Picture and the Chosen Cards. 9-468. The Magic Portfolio. 9-469. 
The Glove Column. 9-539. Zoe. 9-540. Fan Fare. 10-368. The Inex- 
haustible Punch Bowl. 10-428. The Shower of Gold. 

Tricks Involving Unusual Ability, Superior Informa- 
tion, etc. 

Mathematical. 9-42. To Discover a Given Card. 9-47. The Four 
Packets of Cards Having been formed Face Downward on the Table to 
Discover the Total Value of the Undermost Cards. 9-52. To Make a 
Card Thought of Appear at Such Number in the Pack as Another Per- 
son Shall Name. 9-53. To Guess Four Cards Thought of by Different 
Persons. 9-54. The Pairs Repaired. 9-55. Another Method of Discov- 
ering a Card Thought of. 9-59. A Congress of Court Cards. 9-104. 
A Row of Cards Being Placed Face Downwards on the Table to Indi- 
cate by Turning Up One of Them How Many of Such Cards Have Dur- 
ing Your Absence Been Transferred From One End of the Row to the 
other. 9-160. Odd or Even, or the Mysterious Addition. 9-265. To 
Turn Up a Domino Whose Points Shall Indicate How Many Have Been 
Moved in Your Absence. 9-267. The Dominoes Being Arranged in a 
Row to Name Blindfolded the End Numbers of the Row. 9-269. To 
Name Without Seeing Them the Points of a Pair of Dice. 9-213. To 
Indicate on the Dial of a Watch the Hour Secretly Thought of by 

Journai, — 2 

45 6 TriplETT : 

Any of the Company. 9-560. The Q Trick. 10-237. Tne Expunged 
Numeral. 10-241. To Predict the Sum of Five Rows of Figures. 

Code or Confederate. 2-184. Mental Magic. 2-197. Silent Thought 
Transference, Number One. 2-199. Thought Transference, Number 
Two. 4-61. The Spirit Thinkaphone. 4-63. Tachy Psychography. 
4-65. Hypnognotism. 4-79. Head of Ibykus or Talking Skull. 5-22. 
Thought Reading in Cards. 6-49. Euclid Outdone. 6-41. McLaugh- 
lin's Thought Reading Trick. 5-6. Giving Number of Banknote in 
Sealed Envelope. 5-57. Magnetic Handkerchief. 9-56. To Guess by 
the Aid of a Passage of Poetry or Prose Such One of Sixteen Cards, as, 
in Your Absence has Been Touched or Selected by the Company. 

Mediumistic Feats. 2-50. Spiritualistic Knots and Ties of Many 
Kinds. 4-22. The Three-knotted Charmed Handkerchief. 4-23. The 
Eglinton Rope Test. 4-24. One of the Davenport Rope Ties. 4-25. 
Braid and Tape Test. 5-59. Eglinton's Famous Slate Trick. 7-18. 
Spirit Writing With Pencil Thimble. 7-44. Spirit Writing With the 
Toes. 7-52. The Thumb Pencil Writing. 7-86. The Cotton Bandage Test. 
7-105. Slade's Accordion Trick. 8-144. The Picture Medium. 8-178. 
The Slate Medium and the Sealed Envelopes. 8-184. Dark Circle 
Trick. 9-238. The Vanishing Knots. 10-250. Reading Blindfold. 10-251. 
Dr. Lynn's Second Sight Trick. 

Superior Information or Ability. 9-47. To Place the Four Kings in 
Different Parts, of the Pack and to Bring them Together by a Simple 
Cut. 9-48. The Four Kings being Placed under the head of One Per- 
son, and the Four Sevens under the Head of Another, to Make Them 
Change Places at Command. 9-50. To Name All the Cards of the Pack 
in Succession. 9-51. The Cards Being Cut to Tell Whether the Num- 
ber Cut is Odd or Even. 9-51. The Whist Trick, to Deal Yourself All 
the Trumps. 9-57. To Detect Without Confederacy Which of Four 
Cards Has Been Turned Around In Your Absence. 

Tricks Depending on a Large Use of Fixed Mental 
Habits in the Audience. 

Sleight-of-Hand With and Without Apparatus. 1-119. Hermann's 
Best Handkerchief Trick. 1-126. Another Handkerchief Vanish. 1-129. 
The Color-Changing Handkerchief. 1-133. Changing a Handkerchief 
into a Billiard Ball. 1-138. The Multiplying Billiard Ball. 1-139. The 
Chameleon Billiard Ball. 1-141. Samuel's Improved Chameleon Bil- 
liard Ball. 1-161. The Multiplying Coins. 1-184. The Fish Bowl Pro- 
duction. 1-188. The Flying Cage. 1-194. Chronological Catastrophe. 
1-200. Hermann's Klingklang Trick. 1-202. ' The Spirit Calculator. 
1-204. Heavy Weights from a Hat. 1-291. A Comedy of Errors. 2-106. 
The Cone of Flowers. 2-112. The Birth of Flowers. 2-114. To Pass a 
Finger Through a Hat. 2-119. The Egg and Hat Trick. 2-122. The 
Dissolving Coin. 2-132. The Invisible Journey of a Glass of Wine. 4-5 
Handkerchief Multiplication. 4-8. The Flight Through Crystals. 4-11. 
Postal Card Trick. 4-15. Programme, Ring, and Envelope Trick. 4-16. 
Bertram's Programme and Coin Trick. 4-78. Catching Bullets on a 
Plate. 5-19. The Winged Numbers. 5-23. Yank Hoe's Paper Trick. 
5-24. Cigarette and Card Trick. 5-26. Ornithological Labyrinth of 
Perplexity. 5-28. Tambourine and Paper Trick. 5-29. Valensin's Mul- 
tiplying Coins. 5-44. A Coin Sleight. 6-29. The Flying Thimble. 7-128. 
The Miraculous Wine Glasses. 9-214. To Bend a Borrowed Watch 
Backwards and Forwards. 9-240. To Exchange a Borrowed Handker- 
chief for a Substitute. 9-254. Plumes from an Empty Handkerchief. 
9-268. To Change Invisibly the Numbers Shown on Either Face of a 
Pair of Dice. 9-308. The Hundred Goblets from a Hat. 9-325. The Van- 
ishing Gloves. 9-329. Egg Production. 9-163. To Make a Marked Quar. 


ter and a Penny Wrapped in Separate Handkerchiefs Change Places at 
Command. 9-164. To Make Two Marked Coins Wrapped in Separate 
Handkerchiefs Come Together in One of Them. 9-168.T0 Pull Four Quar- 
ters Through a Handkerchief . 9-170. To Pass a Marked Quarter Into the 
Center of Two Oranges in Succession. 9-172. To Make a Coin Pass Invisi- 
bly from the One Hand to the Other, and Finally Through the Table. 
9-175. To Rub one Penny Into Three. 9-180. The Travelling Counters. 
9-181. The Wandering Coins. 9-227. To Pass a Ring From One Hand 
to Either Finger of the Other Hand. 9-228. To Pass a Ring Through 
a Pocket Handkerchief. 9-228. To Pass a Ring Through the Table. 
9-230. To Pass a Ring Invisibly upon the Middle of a Wand, the Ends 
being Held by two of the Spectators. 9-231. The Magic Ball and 
Rings. 9-233. To Pass a Borrowed Ring Into an Egg. 9-272. Cup and 
Ball Conjuring. Four Movements Necessary : First, to Palm the Ball ; 
Second, to Reproduce the Palmed Ball at the End of the Fingers ; Third, 
to Secretly Introduce the Palmed Ball Under the Cup ; Fourth, to 
Simulate the Action of Placing the Ball Under the Cup. 9-276. To 
Produce a Ball from the Wand, and to Return a Ball Into the Wand. 
9-277. To Pass One Cup Through Another. 9-279. Having Placed a 
Ball Under Each Cup, to Draw it Out Again Without Lifting the Cup. 
9-281. To Make a Ball Travel Invisibly from Cup to Cup. 9-283. Hav- 
ing Placed Two BallsUnder the Middle to Make them PassUnder the Two 
Outer Ones. 9-282. Having Placed a Ball Under Each of the End 
Make Them Pass Successively Under the Middle Cup. 9-283. To Pass 
Three Balls in Succession Under One Cup. 9-284. To Place Three Balls, 
One After the Other.Upon the Top of One of the Cups, and to Make Them 
Fall Through the Cup on to the Table. 9-285. To Pass Three Balls in Suc- 
cession Upwards Through the Table into One of the Cups. 9-286. To 
Pass Two Balls in Succession from One Cup to Another Without 
Touching Them. 9-287. The Multiplication Pass. 9-288. To Transform 
the Small Balls to Larger Ones. 9-289. To Again Transform the Balls 
to Still Larger Ones. 2-125. Second Sight. 4-19. Slade's Spirit Knots. 
5-10. Reading Sealed Messages. 7-32. Spirit Writing on Double 
Sealed or Locked Slates. 7-41. Spirit Writing While You Look. 7-49. 
The Slate Exchanged. 7-54. Another Method of Answering Sealed 
Questions. 7-58. Foster's Mind-Reading Trick. 7-72. The Table Lifter. 
8-147. Slate Writing with Materialized Pencil. 1-221. The Spiritual- 
istic Sack. 2-123. The Spirit Slates. 4-21. Bellechini's Cabinet Mys- 
tery. 4-27. New Spirit Post. 4-28. Spirit Hand. 5-15. The Original 
Slate Mystery. 7-4. Single Slate With Flap. 7-7. Endless Band Sili- 
cate Trick Slate. 7-9. With Two Slates and a Flap, to Produce a Mes- 
sage on a Blank Piece of Paper. 7-47. Another False Flap Method. 
7-96. The Handcuff Trick. 8-140. The Carpet Slate Trick. 8-153. Slate 
Writing by Aid of the Trap. 6-21. The Magic Tambourine. 5-28. Can- 
dle and Rings. 5-47. Electric Coin Shuffle. 5-53. Ball and Changing 
Tube. 4-6. Soup Plate and Handkerchief. 4-12. Demon Cards. 4-13. 
Magic Die, Flowers, and Glass Box. 4-13. The Vanishing Billiard Ball. 
1-135. Vanishing a Solid Billiard Ball from a Glass of Water. 1-154. 
Ring and Bottle Trick. 1-157. The Rabbit Trick. 2-48. The Decapi- 
tation Trick. 2-105. Egg and Handkerchief Trick. 2-117. A. Cake 
Baked in a Hat. 2-120. Multiplication of Coins. 2-121. Magic Coins. 
2-129. The Travelling Bottle and Glass. 2-130. Disappearance of an 
Apple and Ninepin. 9-121. The Magic Sword. 9-182. The Heads and 
Tail Trick. 9-183. The Magic Cone and Vanishing Coin. 9-185. The 
Animated Coin. 9-198. To Pass a Coin Into a Ball of Wool. 9-225. The 
Flying Ring. 9-241. The Locked and Corded Box and the Washer- 
woman's Bottle. 9-251. The Shower of Sweets. 9-313. The Welch Rab- 
bit. 9-321. The Bonus Genius. 9-337. The Rice and Orange Trick. 


9-401. The Chinese Rings. 9-419. To Vanish a Die Through the Crown 
of a Hat. 9-426. The Decanter and a Crystal Ball. 9-427. The Die and 
Orange. 1-143. The Rising Cards. 1-187. Cazeneuve's Card in an Orange. 
Card-Tricks. 9-64. To Make a Card Vanish from Pack and be Found 
in Person's Pocket. 9-66. To Teach the Company a Trick which They 
Learn Without Difficulty, Then to Allow Them to Suceeed, or Cause 
Them to Fail at Your Pleasure. 9-69. To Distinguish the Court Cards 
by Touch. 9-70. To Name Any Number of Cards in Succession With- 
out Seeing Them. 9-71. To Make Four Cards Change from Eights to 
twos, from Black to Red, etc. 9-73. A Card Having been Drawn and 
Returned and the Pack Shuffled to Make It Appear at Such Number 
as the Company Choose. 9-76. The Three Card Monte Trick. 9-77. 
To Nail a Chosen Card to the Wall. 9-77. The Inseparable Sevens. 
9-79. The Inseparable Aces. 9-84. To Cause a Number of Cards to 
Multiply Invisibly in a Person's Keeping. 9-86. The Pack Having 
Been Divided into two Portions Placed in the Keeping of Two Differ- 
ent Persons, to Make Three Cards Pass Invisibly From the One to the 
Other. 9-90. To Make Four Aces Change to Four Kings, and Four 
Kings to Four Aces. 9-93. To Change Four Aces Held Tightly by a Per- 
son into Four Indifferent Cards. 9-97. The Shower of Aces. 9-103. Two 
heaps of Cards Unequal in Number Being Placed Upon the Table to 
Predict Before Hand which of the Two the Company Will Choose. 
9-108. The Cards Having Been Freely Shuffled and Cut into Three or 
Four Heaps, to Name the Top Card of Each Heap. 9-1 10. To Allow 
a Person Secretly to Think of a Card, and even Before Such Card is 
Named to Select it from the Pack and Place it Singly Upon the Tablej 
9-1 15. To Change a Drawn Card into the Portraits of Several of the 
Company in Succession. 9-119. To Deal Yourself All the Trumps, the 
Three Other Players Holding the Usual Mixed Hands. 

Typical Conjuring Deceptions. 

For the illustration of the principles involved in conjuring, 
by showing something of the means employed in the perform- 
ance of the feats, and as furnishing a basis for subsequent re- 
marks, there follow below, in skeletal form, a number of tricks 
of the different groups. While the psychical element, the real 
flesh and blood of the trick is wanting, the omission is in part 
atoned for by a fuller statement of the principles involved in 
several special tricks given in the discussion. It has been as- 
serted that in the nations of antiquity, the facts of science so 
far as then known were exhibited by the priests as evidence of 
divine power. In this age of discovery magic still makes use 
of them for the pleasure of a wonder loving world. Scientific 
features at present completely dominate the programme of the 
high class conjurer. In truth, however, these contain less of 
interest for the psychologist. The effects they permit of do not 
depend so much on an ideational contribution, hence, they do 
not vary so much with the individual. Being almost purely 
sensory, the illusion is the same in the case of the scientist to 
whom it is merely a puzzle or who may even know the principle, 
and the ignorant man to whom the feat is still colored with 
magical qualities. 

conjuring deceptions. 459 

Optical Illusions. 

In optics the most astonishing effects are produced as the result of 
skillfully placed mirrors, plate glass, and magic lanterns. 

2-69. The Living Half Woman. 

Effect. On a small table rests a three-legged stool, supporting a 
cushion and the half lady. Lady moves and speaks, brilliant light. 
Visitor can see the four legs of the table, and the space under the 
stool. Method. Two mirrors set at angle of forty-five degrees under 
stool, side legs of table also connected with middle one by two mir- 

2-77. The Decapitated Princess. 

Effect. Head resting upon two swords lying across the arms of a chair. 
Method. An opening in chair back, below swords through which 
lady's head protrudes. It is concealed by a mirror placed at forty-five 
degrees reflecting the red plush of seat of chair. Variants are the Talk- 
ing Head, Stella, The Spider and the Fly, The Mystery of Dr. Lynn. 

2-72. She. 

Effect. Lady standing on a small round stand beneath which the 
four legs and four lighted candles are seen. Cylindrical cloth screen 
lowered over lady to level of table. At pistol shot screen and lady 
are ignited; when burned out, a pile of bones and skull remain on table. 
Method. Mirrors meeting at right angles under table reflect two 
legs and two candles to make them seem four. Lady descends through 
trap in table top when screen is lowered. 

7-136. The Mermaid's Head. 

Effect. Upon a light tripod stands an aquarium with goldfish 
swimming in it, and in the center a head which moves and smiles. 
Method. Three triangular mirrors above the crossing place of the 
legs form a place serving to conceal body, and permit of placing head 
in the central Cavity of transparent glass in aquarium. 

1-250. Metempsychosis, or The Walker Illusion. 

Effect. Living forms walk bodily out of blank space, change into 
other shapes and finally vanish. A ghost becomes visible and develops 
into a living person. Process reversed. Method. Large plate glass 
mirror — on rollers, transparent at one end and silvering gradually 
increasing in density — set at proper angle. Keller's blue room on this 

2-79. Keller's Queen of Flowers. 

Effect. A screen eight by ten feet in three divisions. The bottom 
is a floor raised about one foot from the stage, an electric light under 
each division, a semi-circular stand placed in front of middle panel at 
same height as floor. At roof is a brass rod from which hangs a cur- 
tain inclosing the little stand. Audience can see if any one seeks to 
get behind curtain, yet when curtain is drawn, a lady surrounded 
by flowers is seen on the platform. Method. Invisible mirrors run- 
ning from floor to roof of summer house form a passage way through 
which one can walk from behind scenes to stand while the audience 
still keep guard. 

2-81. Houdin's Magic Cabinet. 

Effect. An empty cabinet shown and examined by spectators. A 
lady enters and the doors are closed, when opened the lady has dis- 
appeared. They are closed and she reappears. Method. The sides 
of cabinet are the backs of two mirrors, when the doors are closed 
upon the lady, she pulls the mirrors towards her till they meet at the 
pole in the front of cabinet rendering her invisible. 

2-86. The Platinized Glass Illusion. 

Effect. The image of a person looking in mirror may be changed 
to portrait of a horned devil. Method. Mirror gives image by reflec- 


ted light but is transparent by transmitted light, which may be ad- 
mitted by shutter to show image placed behind glass. 

2-60. The Three-headed Woman. 

Effect. Curtain drawn back a woman's body is seen, it has three 
heads, two springing from the neck of the third ; they sing, etc. 
Method. A mirror, facing audience. On an inclined board which rests 
against the screen in front of the stage, lie three young girls, the 
middle one in light colored silk. The bodies of the two at the sides 
are covered with fabric of dead black color. In front of them are 
placed powerful lights. 

1-234. Black Art. 

Effect. Stage setting and everything in black except the articles 
which are to appear, these are white. The performer in white silk 
commands the spirits. His wand comes out of space to his hand. 
Two small tables suddenly appear when desired. Refreshments are 
served from empty vases, doves and rabbits are then produced from 
them, and thrown in the air when they disappear. Performer produces 
a lady from a shawl, severs her head with a knife and places it on a 
pedestal. The body is still seen to move. Many other startling effects 
are produced. Method. Stage in dead black. Reflectors on sides 
and in front face audience. Articles to appear are placed behind black 
screens. Assistants in dead black move freely about the stage and are 
invisible, when head is deposited on pedestal, lady walks behind screen 
head only showing. 

2-61. Amphitrite. 

Effect. Through a circular aperture in a screen appears a scene 
representing the sky, below in foreground is the sea; at command a 
nymph rises from sea into space in which she turns round and round, 
gracefully moving arms and legs. She finally assumes position of a 
diver and plunges into ocean. Method. Mirror inclined forty-five 
degrees to stage, nymph strongly illuminated lies on a revolving table 
below the stage, table pushed forward to make her appear, and pulled 
back at the end of performance. 

2-520. Gone. 

Effect. Lady tied in a chair, raised by windlass a few feet above 
stage. Performer fires a pistol, at same instant lady vanishes and 
chair drops to floor. Method. A row of lights on frame of windlass 
are turned off at instant that pistol is fired. Another row up over the 
proscenium are at the same instant turned on, and they brilliantly 
light up a background corresponding to background of stage. The 
front of frame unknown to audience is covered by a sheet of glass which 
receives image of background above, and hides rear background and 
lady from sight. Another method sometimes used is to drop a black 
screen at pistol shot. 

2-55. Cabaret du Neant. 

Effect. Subject placed in a standing coffin changed to a grinning 
skeleton and back at command. He is next placed at a table, when 
audience see a spirit approach and gesture to him. Method. A skel- 
eton is in a coffin unseen by spectators, when the light is turned on it 
has its refracted image from large plate glass thrown so as to coincide 
with the person in the second coffin. In the same way the spirit is 
made to walk. 

7-46. Spirit Message by Aid of Mirrors. 

Effect. A person writes a question on a slate, places it written side 
down on the table. The medium places one hand on slate, and with 
the other writes a commnnication which is the answer to the unseen 
question. Method. The slate is placed over a trap; trap is opened 
and three mirrors at forty-five degrees reflect writing to the place me- 
dium is sitting. 

conjuring deceptions. 46 1 

Acoustic Illusions. 

An example of the illusions of this class may be taken from 
the ventriloquists who exhibit in public large articulated pup- 
pets in connection with their art. The aim of the ventriloquist 
is to produce an illusion of a voice proceeding from a point 
other than its real source. In order to deceive his listeners 
more completely, an unusual tone of voice is used. Contrary 
to the popular opinion, these sounds are not thrown but their 
locality is suggested by all the means of the actor's art, and 
by the employment of talking figures. The moving mouths 
of these puppets and the still lips of the performer produce an 
effect which especially on the stage is absolutely perfect. The 
puppets are so constructed that under the manipulation of the 
performer, they move their limbs, shrug the shoulders, shake 
the head, wink, make faces, and move their jaws in such a way 
as to seem to utter the words that the spectator hears. In 
order that the lips of the magician may be kept motion- 
less during the performance, a selected vocabulary of words, 
free from labials is necessitated. This fact will not be perceived 
by the audience if the artist does his work well. A good set- 
ting enhances the effect very much, and real acting is as im- 
portant here in creating the illusion as in any other branch of 
conjuring. The difficulty of localizing the origin of sounds is 
shown in many familiar cases. It is well understood by those 
who study stage effects; should an actress who is no vocalist 
have a part requiring her to sing, she has only to simulate 
singing while the vocalist in the wings supplies the notes with 
little fear that the audience will detect the imposture. So the 
beautiful chorus girls stand on the front row, but the volume of 
sound is contributed by their plainer comrades behind. In 
spiritualistic seances where stringed instruments float across 
the stage giving forth melodious sounds the while, the man 
with the bow plays an instrument in contact with the wire, but 
unseen by the audience. Where a cannon is fired on the stage 
only a fulminating cap is flashed before the spectators, the 
real explosion taking place outside. The resounding smack 
heard when one clown slaps another is produced by the victim 
clapping his hands at the instant he is struck. The audience 
following the larger movement do not see this. A common 
laboratory experiment where the subject sits blind-folded and 
is required to judge of the direction and distance of sounds 
made by a snapping instrument shows the difficulty the ear ex- 
periences in localizing sounds. The results obtained indicate 
that, in general, judgment is based upon the relative intensity 
of the sounds reaching the two ears; while the general direc- 
tion of right and left are sensed, no approach to accuracy oc- 


curs. Our spatial ideas are for the most part a complex effect 
of tactual and visual sensations past and present, and audition 
contributes but little. The ability of the ear to discriminate 
the source of sounds therefore, is in no way comparable to the 
eyes' power to focus on the object of vision. Indeed the ear 
does not trust to its own accuracy but relies so far as possible 
on aid from the eye, which, biologically considered, is by far the 
more important sense. It is plain, therefore, for the reasons 
given that the use of the puppet is an advantage in the pro- 
duction of the illusions referred to, for the eyes of the spectator 
are irresistibly drawn to its moving lips, and his mind acting 
under the usual association, as explained elsewhere, is impelled 
to attribute the voice to it also. 

2-103. Houdin's Magic Harps. 

Effect. Two harps, placed upon the stage play in concert. Inter- 
vention of spirits. Method. The harps are in contact with two fir 
rods which pass through floor, and rest upon harps played by skillful 
musicians below. Several variants. 

9-222. The Mesmerized Watch. 

Effect. Performer makes passes over a borrowed watch to change 
it as he says into a repeater. He then asks it to tell the hour that 
last struck, when the watch chimes the number with a clear bell-like 
tone, and answers other questions, three strokes for yes and one for no. 
Method. The strokes are made by a clock bell with a striking mechan- 
ism placed in the pocket. It is set in motion by pressure on a button. 

A variant is the spirit bell. Effect. An ordinary bell placed on a 
plate of glass tells fortunes, ages, etc. Method. A second bell in 
table connected with an electric battery. 

4-91. Poe's Raven in the Garland of Thebes. 

Effect. A raven sitting in a garland of roses suspended in mid air 
by ribbons talks, sings, whistles, and tells fortunes. Method. The 
raven is stuffed, ribbons double and contain a rubber tube running 
behind scenes. The voice of a confederate passes out of tube in a 
direct line with bird's mouth. 

9-159. A Borrowed Coin being Spun on a Table to Tell Blindfold 
whether it falls head or tail upwards. 

Method. Substitute a coin prepared by cutting the edge so that a 
minute point will project from one side. When spun on this side it 
will run down more rapidly, and the difference in sound is distinguish- 
able to an attentive ear. 

4-36. Keller's New Karmos. 

Effect. Lady sits on a chair facing audience. Performer blindfolds 
her and makes magnetic passes over her. The lady names cards, the 
numbers of banknotes, and other second sight feats. Method. Assist- 
ant behind scenes with a strong glass sees everything, and tells the 
lady what to say by means of an invisible speaking tube passing from 
behind the wings under the floor and up the rear leg of chair. Per- 
former under pretense of hypnotizing the lady connects the tube in 
her hair to the one in chair. 

Electrical Deceptiohs. 

9-483. Houdin's Light and Heavy Chest. 

Effect. The weight of a chest changed at the command of the ma- 
gician. Method. Electro-magnetism. Box with iron plate on bottom 


placed in contact with studs, connected with electro-magnet and this 
with battery below stage. 

9-485. Spirit Rapping and Telegraphy is frequently produced in 
many forms by the aid of elctro-magnetism. A keeper, to which is 
attached the knocker, is drawn down by making circuit, and drawn 
back by a spring on breaking it. The apparatus is concealed in table 
and wires leading down hollow leg to battery. Magic bells and drums 
on the same principle. 

3-122. Houdin's Crystal Cash Box. 

Effect. A transparent box suspended above stage, — performer takes 
a number of coins in his hand and saying pass, they vanish from his 
hand, and are heard to fall in the crystal box where they become visi- 
ble. Method. Coins are pushed through trap in table and placed 
by assistant in a glass flap against lid of box before bringing it in, in 
which position they are invisible. At a signal the circuit is completed 
through a wire holding glass flap; a fuse is melted and coins released. 

7-62. The Educated Fly. 

Effect. A large mirror resting against an easel is marked by the per- 
former in twenty-eight squares, and lettered a to z. One of the 
remaining squares is zero, and the other is left, as the conjurer says, 
for a starting point. A large fly is placed on the empty square; when- 
ever a number is called for, the fly travels across and stops at the desired 
square. Method. Boy behind mirror with strong electro-magnet causes 
fly to move over desired course to corresponding square. 

2-96. The Neo-occultism. 

Effect. A diner with eye-glasses and armed with knife and fork 
attacks a beefsteak. At a signal lights go out, a skeleton appears sit- 
ting opposite gentleman who has disappeared, his glasses alone remain- 
ing visible. Method. A black curtain on the other side of the table con- 
ceals from spectators a skeleton covered with zinc sulphide, when the 
lights are extinguished, a concealed Ruhmkorff coil is put in action. 
The skeleton, the tableware, and the eye-glasses are alone visible. 

3-1 14. The Demon Candlestick. 

Effect. Candles lighted at command. Method. Candles hollow, 
secretly connected with the gas pipe. Wires are led up to wick of 
candle, ignited by an induction coil giving a two-inch spark or by a 
plate machine. 

Chemical Effects. 

7-1 1. Spirit Writing. 1 

Effect. A blank piece of paper placed between two slates and laid 
on table in sight, is later found to have a message on it. Method. 
Invisible message written previously with dilute sulphuric acid. In 
the body of table is placed a lamp. The top of table is iron,— heat 
blackens the acid. A variant is to place the message previously written 
with a weak solution of copper sulphate in a vessel containing some 
ammonia. A similar method is to place the writing done with iron 
sulphate in contact with a surface moistened with a solution of nutgalls. 

7-43. The Caustic Pencil Trick. 

Effect. Medium takes victim's slate and with a pencil covers both 
sides with writing to see, so he says, if it is good enough for the test. 
He cleans both sides, and requests him to hold it close to his breast. 
On removing it writing is found on the side nearest him. Method. 
Pencil pointed at both ends, after writing several lines, the medium 
writes between them with a silver nitrate end, wets slate with salt 
water, writing white when dry. 

•Robinson in " Spirit Slate Writing" gives thirty-seven formulas for sympathetic 

464 TRIPI3TT : 

Another method is to write on slate with a solution of hydrochloric 
acid and zinc, it is invisible while wet. 

7-51. Reading Questions in Sealed Envelopes. 

This is hardly to be classed as chemical, but is a favorite with medi- 
ums. Prepare a sponge with alcohol, brush envelope and writing 
within becomes plainly visible. 

4-30. Spirit Pictures. 

Effect. Medium shows a wooden frame on which is a piece of cloth, 
a picture gradually appears on cloth. Method. Picture prepared 
beforehand on unbleached muslin, using sulphate of iron for blue, 
nitrate bismuth for yellow, sulphate copper for brown. Medium in 
cabinet behind with an atomizer sprays solution of prussiate potash, 
which brings out colors. Spirit music to hide noise of atomizer. 

2-134. The Wine Changed to Water. 

Effect. Conjurer asks a spectator to take refreshment. Waiter brings 
in two glasses and two transparent decanters. One contains red wine, 
the other water. The guest is asked to make a choice, and pours red 
wine into his glass which changes to water. The conjuror pours out 
water which becomes wine. Method. The wine was potassium per- 
manganate and sulphuric acid, and was clarified by sodium hypo- 
sulphite in bottom of glass. The water was partly alcohol, and readily 
dissolved analine red in other glass. Many other chemical combina- 
tions are used. 

3-71. The Enchanted Sun Glass. 

Effect. Fire, set to paper by focusing rays from a candle. Method. 
In the handle of the sun glass is contained a solution of phosphorus in 
carbon disulphide. Liquid discharged on paper by a push-button. 

5-58. Balloon Production. 

Effect. Six inflated gas balloons produced from a hat which is first 
shown empty. Method. A half ounce of water in each of the empty 
balloons. In the neck of each has been place a small bag containing 
calcium carbide. One at a time the water is permitted to reach the car- 
bide and generate gas. 

3-98. The Strange Disappearance. 

Effect. A solid silver elephant placed on a column and covered by 
a glass and scarf disappears. Method. Elephant is of mercury frozen 
by evaporation of solid carbonic acid dissolved in ether or by frozen 
air; when exposed it soon melts and flows into an opening in the 

Mechanical Tricks. 

7-74. Houdin's Floating Piano and Performer. 

Effect. Lady seats herself and plays piano placed against side scenes, 
closing cover she reaches toward bouquet on table which comes to her 
hand. She is seen to rise half way to top of stage, then glide to oppo- 
site side of room and out. Piano rises and follows her. Method. Invisi- 
ble wires running over pulleys. Piano is drawn out behind from a 
papier mache shell, shell alone is floated out. 

7-110. The Wire Cage Test. 

Effect. The iron cage is subjected to rigid examination. Medium 
enters and is locked in. Usual manifestations take place. Method. 
One rod unscrews, releasing others. Many trick cabinets, handcuffs, 
etc., on same principle. 

9-203. The Magic Coin Wand. 

Effect. Touching any spot with wand a coin appears on end. Method. 
Wand is a hollow brass rod slotted along the side. In this a stud works 
to push a split coin out or to withdraw it. Use in connection with 
palmed coins or money slide. 


9-215. The Watch Mortar. 

Effect. Borrowed watch dropped in mortar, pounded with a pestle, 
pieces loaded in a pistol and fired at a loaf of bread. Watch found unin- 
jured in loaf. Method. Mortar with movable bottom, watch drops 
through into other hand and is palmed. A dummy watch is pounded 
up and placed in pistol, when conjuror fetches the loaf he inserts watch. 
A variation is to shoot at a target, when the borrowed watch is seen to 
alight on a little hook in the middle. Target is reversible and held by 
a spring which is released at shot. It reverses too quickly for the eye 
to follow. A trick on the same principle is the Fairy Star. Six cards 
chosen by spectator are loaded into a pistol and fired at a gilt star 
brought out by an assistant. At shot the six cards are seen to appear 
attached to the points of the star. Method. The cards chosen are 
substituted, while performer loads six others into pistol, the assistant 
places the cards on springs behind the rays of the star and brings it in 
for target. The springs are released at shot, and cards appear. The 
card bouquet is a variant. 

2-27. Vanity Fair. 

Effect. A large looking glass with a shelf at bottom. Using a ladder 
a lady steps upon the shelf, turns to glass and inspects her reflection. 
A screen so narrow that a considerable portion of the mirror shows on 
each side of it is now placed around her. After a moment, screen is 
removed and lady has disappeared. Method. A section, cut in mirror 
below, slips up, leaving an opening. A sliding platform is pushed 
forward from an opening in the rear scene, and lady is drawn through 
by assistants. 

9-34. The Magic Palanquin. 

Effect. A lady in a palanquin carried by four slaves. At a given 
moment the curtains are drawn, and then immediately opened, the lady 
has disappeared. Method. The four posts are hollow containing a 
cord working over pulleys at the top. At the moment curtains are 
drawn counterpoises are disengaged and rapidly raise double bottom 
with lady up to interior of canopy. 

2-35. Kellar's Cassadaga Propaganda. 

Effect. A small cabinet forty-two inches high, thirty-six inches 
wide, and fourteen inches deep is placed on two chairs. Tambourines 
and bells are placed inside, and doors closed. The instruments begin 
playing and are then thrown out at the top. Cabinet opened and found 
empty. A slate placed therein has a message written on it. Other 
effects. Method. Cabinet is suspended in part by fine wires ; a small 
boy perched on a shelf at back of cabinet is the moving spirit. 

2-42. The Disappearing Lady. 

Effect. A lady seated on a chair is covered by a silk veil. After 
counting three, veil is lifted and lady has gone. Method. Trap. May 
be used in reverse order. 

2-89. Hermann's Trilby. 

Effect. A plank is placed upon the back of two chairs. Trilby en- 
ters, lies down upon the plank. Hermann makes passes over her, then 
removes the chairs, leaving her floating in the air. Method. A bar 
protruded from a strong frame with moveable slide, works behind 
scenes. It is guided by performer under cover of his passes into its 
socket. A variation of this is to suspend plank by invisible wires be- 
fore removing chairs. 

8-153. Slate Writing via the Trap. 

Effect. The "sitter's" locked or clamped double slate is held 
beneath the table by both inquirer and medium. It is later found to 
have a message on it. Method. Medium has convulsive jerkings and 
pulls slate from visitor for an instant and in giving it back substitutes 


another. The slate is now passed through trap to an assistant below 
who opens and writes, fastens and returns slate. 

7-7. The Endless Band Silicate Slate. 

Rollers in frame of slate. A little stud pushed up brings previously 
written message on back of slate to front. 

2-46. The Indian Basket Trick. 

Effect. The performer, sword in hand leads in a young lady de- 
claring she must be punished. He blindfolds her. She finally escapes 
and runs off the stage ; he follows and drags her in by the wrist blind- 
folded and compels her to enter an oblong basket, say five feet by two, 
and as deep as wide, which is placed on a low stand or bench so as to 
be raised clear of the stage. Closing the lid he thrusts the sword 
through the basket in various places. Piercing screams are heard 
from within and the sword when withdrawn is red with blood. When 
all is quiet the conjurer wipes his sword and tells the audience that 
he did it to punish her, but that she had left the basket before the 
sword was thrust in. He turns it over and shows it empty. At this 
interval the lady appears from some other part of the room, makes 
her bow and retires. Method. Two ladies dressed alike, after the 
audience have seen the 'first lady's features, she runs out and the 
second is dragged in blind-folded and placed in the basket. The basket 
has a false bottom or flap, when the basket is turned up for the specta- 
tors to see, the lady is left lying behind it while the flap simulates the 
bottom. A variant later produced makes use of the principle of the 
sphinx table having a mirror between bench and floor, behind which 
is a trap. When lady enters basket, she passes immediately below 
stage. The basket is shown empty, and the lady appears as before. 
Both forms given are improvements over the trick as performed by the 
Indian jugglers exposed by Prof. Bertram. 1 In one form the specta- 
tors are not allowed to look in the basket, but after the thrusting in of 
sword the boy's clothes are taken out and the performer jumps in the 
basket himself. Another mode of working the trick is employed where 
there is a wall as background ; screens are used and at the critical period 
confederates raise a tremendous disturbance, in the midst of which the 
boy escapes. 

Tricks Involving Unusual Ability, Superior Informa- 
tion, Assistance of Confederates, etc. 

Under this heading might well be placed many card tricks 
not requiring sleight of hand, rope tying feats, and others re- 
quiring unusual skill, feats of memory as in the mind reading 
and second sight tricks, code tricks, and many requiring a 
confederate; also those involving superior information or knowl- 
edge of a mathematical nature, and puzzles. 

Heller's Second Sight. 

Effect. Lady blindfolded and seated before audience. Magician 
goes among spectators, receives from them various articles which the 
seeress accurately describes ; of a strange coin, where coined, its de- 
nomination and date ; of a watch, the metal, maker's name, the time, 
date, etc.; so of other objects however strange. Method. The ques- 
tions put are words, syllables, or vowels from an ingenious code. By 
means of combinations of these, Heller could give the clairvoyant 
the names and other data of every variety of article. He could also 
give information without speaking a word, electricity being used. 

1 Bertram : " Are Indian Jugglers Humbugs ? " Strand Magazine, January, 1900. 


He gave the cue by some natural movement of arms or body to a con- 
federate who telegraphed them to lady, a little machine in seat of sofa 
tapping off the signals to her. Others have the bottom of shoes placed 
in contact with electric apparatus. Many other forms or variations 
are used. 

5-22. Thought Reading in Cards. 

Effect. A pack of cards previously arranged in the order of hearts, 
diamonds, clubs, and spades. Exchanged for one given to be shuffled. 
Divide into seven or eight lots on the front of stage, one lot selected, 
the others removed. Secretly looking at bottom card in the lot taken 
off the top of selected lot, performer will know the order in which 
cards run. The blindfolded assistant is given this cue when she will 
be able to name the cards in order. 

2-198. Silent Thought Transference, Number One. 

Effect. Reading of bank-notes, numbers of watches, dates of coins, 
by medium. Method. Performer and medium count mentally and 
together. Practice enables them to do this with certainty. The num- 
bers counted correspond to articles or ideas in the memorized code, 
signals for starting and stopping are used. 

2-199. Silent Thought Transference, Number Two. 

Effect. Pretence of hypnotizing medium, performer goes among 
audience who whisper what they wish subject to do. Having spoken 
to from twelve to twenty persons, the performer advances toward 
medium and waves his right hand in downward movement. She slowly 
rises and goes through desired performsnce. Method. A code of 
signs and things to be done are learned. These things are forced on 
the audience, performer's movement gives the cue. 

The Thought Reading Artist. 

Effect. Artist draws on blackboard a picture of animal or object 
thought of. Method. Magician has battery and shocking coil under his 
clothing. By taking hold of wire leading therefrom artist receives by 
signals information of the object that he is to draw. Another simple 
method is to communicate the desired information to artist by pulling 
a thread attached to her head, using a code of signals similar to Morse's 

9-56. To Guess by Aid of a Passage of Poetry or Prose Such One 
of Sixteen Cards as, In Your Absence Has Been Touched. 

Method. A confederate and a code: animal, vegetable, mineral, 
verb, signifying respectively, one, two, three, four. Confederate selects 
such passage that the first word coining within either of the four cate- 
gories, names the row, and the second gives the number or card in that 

7-18. Spirit Writing With Pencil Thimble. 

Effect. The skeptic holds one end of clean slate in one hand and 
the medium the opposite end. Both clasp their disengaged hands, 
slate is turned over and message found. Method. A piece of slate 
pencil fastened to thimble worn on forefinger ; an elastic to vanish it 
when it is done with, or a tiny piece of pencil fastened to finger by 
flesh colored court plaster. Only a few words can be written within 
radius of finger. Must be written backward. A variant. Medium 
holds a card to forehead, presently an answer found thereon. In this 
case pencil is used on thumb. 

7-44. Spirit Writing With the Toes. 

A clean slate put on floor under the table. Hands of sitter and medium 
are clasped. Message appears upon slate. Method. Shoe slipped off, 
stocking is cut away. A bit of pencil attached to great toe or a piece of 
chalk held between toes. 

2-50. A Spiritualistic Tie. 

468 TRiPLETT : 

Effect. A committee tie a rope securely around medium's left wrist ; 
lie then places his hands behind him, the right wrist resting over the 
knots on the left, and the ends of the rope are tied down tight on the 
right wrist. Cabinet closed and phenomena occur. Method. In plac- 
ing his hands behind him he gives the knot on left wrist a twist and 
covers the knot and twist with the right ; when ready to release him- 
self he gives his right hand and wrist a half turn releasing the twist 
lying on the knot, when the hand can be easily withdrawn to play the 
usual tricks, then returned. Many variations. 

7-105. Slade's Accordion Trick. 

Effect. Accordion held under table by strap end with right hand, 
keys being at the other end. Left hand on table. Accordion gave forth 
melodious tunes. Method. He skillfully reversed instrument as it 
went under the table. Holding firmly between his legs he used bel- 
lows, and worked the keys with one hand. 

9-57. To Detect Which of Four Cards Has Been Turned Around in 
Your Absence. A Parlor Trick. 

Method. Arrange cards face upward so that the wider margins are 
all one way. 

9-267. To Allow Any Person To Arrange the Dominoes in a Row 
Face Downward, Then to Name Blindfold the End Numbers of the 

Method. The dominoes are to be arranged to match as in the game 
of dominoes. The performer previously abstracts one which makes it 
certain that the ends of the row will agree with the numbers on domino 

9-213. To Indicate on the Dial of a Watch the Hour Secretly Thought 
of by Any of the Company. 

Method. A spectator is requested to think of any hour he pleases. 
The performer begins to tap the watch with a pencil. He asks the 
spectator to mentally count the taps, counting the first tap as one more 
than the hour he thought of. When the performer reaches eight he 
must tap on twelve, and thenceforward must tap the numbers in a re- 
verse order. When the spectator counts to twenty, the pencil will be 
on the hour thought of. 

Tricks Depending on a Large Use of Fixed Mental 
Habits in the Audience. 

Sleight-of-Hand with and Without Apparatus. 4-78. Catching Bul- 
lets on a Plate. 

Effect. A file of soldiers ; cartridges marked by audience, collected 
on a plate by performer who gives each soldier one. They are placed 
in guns which are fired at command. Performer catches the bullets on 
a plate. Method. As he returns to stage performer substitutes wax 
bullets coated with plumbago for the real ones, which he later pro- 

1-119. Hermann's Best Handkerchief Trick. 

Effect. Handkerchief borrowed, given to spectator to hold, and is 
found in pieces ; takes pieces, rolls them together, and gives them to 
gentleman again and asks him to rub his hands together to sew the 
pieces. Taking them back again they are found changed to a long 
strip. He loads it into a pistol and ehoots at a lemon ; on cutting lemon 
the supposedly original handkerchief is found inside. He places it on 
a plate to scent it, when his assistant sets fire to it. Taking the ashes 
from the plate, the performer rolls them up in a piece of paper, which 
he then bursts open, and showing the original handkerchief returns it 
to owner. Method. Skillful palming and substitutions. 

1-138. The Multiplying Billiard Balls. 


The effects are produced by use of one solid ball and two half shells. 
Operator can show one, two, or three balls of as many colors, making 
vanishes and color changes at will. 

6-29. The Flying Thimble. 

Effect. Performer waves right hand with thimble on forefinger back- 
wards and forwards before and behind the left ; thimble seems to have 
changed suddenly to other hand. Method. Thimble palmed in left 
is shown on finger at instant thimble is withdrawn. 

2-106. The Cone of Flowers. 

Effect. A Piece of Paper formed into a cone when gently shaken 
becomes filled with a great quantity of flowers. 

Method. A package of flowers each containing a spring is held com- 
pressed by a band. It is palmed by performer and released when 
placed in cone. 

2-112. The Birth of Flowers. 

Effect. I. At a wave of wand a rose appears in buttonhole. Method. 
A rubber cord attached to rose passes through buttonhole and fastens 
to waistband. When first entering rose is held under arm. II. Seeds 
placed in a glass and covered by a hat. Hat removed and flowers are 
discovered. Method. Flowers introduced into hat while audience's 
attention is directed to glass. 

2-1 14. To Pass a Finger or Wand Through a Hat. 

A false finger concealed in hand is held in place from inside of hat 
by a needle attached to finger. 

2-1 19. The Egg and Hat Trick. 

Effect. Eggs taken from an empty handkerchief and placed in hat. 
Supply unlimited. Method. Egg behind handkerchief suspended by 
a thread. Raising handkerchief withdraws egg from hat. 

2-122. The Dissolving Coin. 

Effect. Coin is held by a spectator within folds of a handkerchief 
over a glass of so-called acid. At signal coin is dropped and heard to 
strike glass. Cover removed and coin found dissolved. Method. A 
glass disk the size of coin substituted for coin before spectator takes 
hold. It just fits the bottom of glass and is invisible in the water. 

1-202. The Spirit Calculator. 

Effect. A blank paper given to spectator is folded and kept in 
pocket. On another paper several persons in the audience write num- 
bers of three figures each, when added they amount to the number 
found on the blank paper in first gentleman's pocket. Method. Per- 
former under pretense of helping to fold blank paper substitutes one 
with a number on it, and as he passes the second paper with the num- 
bers to a spectator to be added, he substitutes one containing several 
numbers amounting to the number on the blank paper. 

9-254. Plumes in an Empty Handkerchief. 

Effect. Handkerchief shaken to show that it is empty, large plumes 
then taken from it. Several repetitions. Method. Plumes grasped 
in hand when coat is put on, the ends reaching to the wrist are seized 
under cover of handkerchief. A variant is Hermann's Flags of all 

1-184. Hermann's Fish-bowl Production. 

Effect. Performer in evening dress, produces from a handkerchief 
several bowls of water with goldfish swimming therein. Bowls about 
seven inches in diameter, and two deep. The last one produced has a 
tripod attachment a foot or two high. Method. The bowls with strong 
rubber covers are disposed in pockets about performer's person. The 
tripod attachment to the final bowl is formed by a telescoping con- 
trivance. Magicians often produce numerous glasses of wine of dif- 
ferent sorts on the same principle. 


1-126. A Handkerchief Vanish. 

Effect. A silk handkerchief rolled in hands disappears and is found 
elsewhere. Method. A flesh-colored barrel or sack hanging to a 
finger receives it and is then swung to back of hand, and later dis- 
posed of if desired. Another vanisher used to vanish gloves and other 
articles is a receptacle attached to a rubber cord which flies beneath 
coat when released. 

9-175. To Rub One Coin into Three. 

Method. Previously stick two coins with wax to under side of table 
near edge. While rubbing coin with thumb above, scrape off coin 
below and produce. Repeat. 

9-178. To Make a Marked Coin Vanish from Handkerchief and be 
Found in Center of an Orange. 

Method. Ask a spectator to hold a coin in a handkerchief. Palm 
coin while placing it beneath, and give him a similar one which is 
sewed into the handkerchief. Performer now brings the orange, push- 
ing coin into a slit in orange while doing so, shake out handkerchief 
and cut orange. 

9-268. To Change Invisibly the Numbers Shown on Either Face of 
a Pair of Dice. 

Method. Arrange dice so that the numbers shown on the face are 
the same, except in reverse order, on the next quarter turn, as three 
and one and one and three. Now, if dice are given a quarter roll 
between fingers as they are brought forward the numbers are seen re- 

9-62. A card having been chosen and returned, and the pack shuffled 
to produce the chosen card instantly in various ways. 

Method. A taper pack used. When a card is chosen pack is reversed 
and it can then be withdrawn by touch. With an unprepared pack the 
chosen card is brought to the top by the pass and palmed, and later 
produced at will. 

9-69. To distinguish the Court Cards by Touch Blindfolded. 

Method. A knife drawn along edge of each court card leaves a 
minute ridge perceptible to the touch. 

9-73. A Card. Having Been Drawn and Returned and the Pack Shuf- 
fled to Make it Appear at Such Number as the Company Choose. 

Method. When chosen card is returned make the pass and keep 
palmed, produce at the number chosen. Very many variations based 
upon the pass and palming. 

9-76. " The Three Card Trick." 

Dropping a court card and two plain cards to tell the court card. 
Method. The operator holds them, face downwards, one between the 
second finger and thumb of the left hand, and the other two, one of 
which is the court card, one between the first finger and thumb, the 
other between the second finger and thumb of the right hand, the lat- 
ter being outermost. Bringing the hands quickly together and then 
quickly apart, the cards are dropped in succession. The trick is an 
illustration of the fact that the hand can move quicker than the eye 
can follow. 

9-90. To Make Four Aces Change to Four Kings and Four Kings to 
Four Aces. 

Method. Four cards are kings on one side, aces on the other. Pro- 
duce and palm as desired in a variety of ways. 

9-103. Of Two Heaps of Cards Unequal in Number, to Predict which 
the Company Will Choose. 

Method. Both heaps contain even numbers. By a palmed card the 
heaps are made odd or even as desired. Many tricks with " prepared 
cards " require considerable sleight-of-hand in their performance. In 


general they are used for a special part of the trick. The tapering 
pack, as its name indicates, is broader at one end. A long card or a 
broad card is often used for forcing. When not forced or otherwise 
used in the trick itself, it is useful to place over or beneath other 
chosen cards to find them easily. Cards pricked in the corner are often 
used. Card sharpers doctor the pack to suit their purposes. In pre- 
paring the "strippers " used by them, two hands are selected from the 
pack and the remainder are trimmed down. A "brief" is simply a 
card kept out of the pack and trimmed convexly at the sides so that it 
can be distinguished by the touch. 

Several kinds of mechanical changing cards are used but all have 
as their object the apparent transformation of the cards to different 
ones. In one case four cards have the spots so arranged that they can 
be shown as fives, but by reversing them they become twos. There may 
be spots on back and front. Aces with changeable spots worked by a 
pin through a slit in the back. Packs arranged in various fashions 
for vanishing. 

9-139. In the "Torn Card" trickacard is torn to pieces and burned, 
except one corner, the ashes fired at a box on the table in which is 
found the card restored save for the corner torn off. This piece is now 
taken from the spectator and thrown or fired at the card when it is 
seen to be whole. Method. The restored card is of tin made to re- 
semble a card with a flap of the shape of the missing corner held back 
by a spring, which is released at the proper time. 

2-48. "The Decapitation Trick." 

Effect. Clown placed upon a coffin shaped box. Head covered with 
a cloth. Harlequin cuts across his neck with a large knife, and in a 
moment lifts in the air the severed head. He places it by the head- 
less trunk, a lighted cigarette is placed in its mouth, smoke comes from 
the nose, the eyes roll, in horror he again covers it with the cloth, 
takes and kneads it on to the body ; figure rises an orthodox clown. 
Method. An assistant in the box which contains trap doors, a dummy 
head which is an exact fac simile of the clown's painted head and 
face. Variants are Vanek's Decapitation, and Herman's Decapitation. 

1-157. "Hermann's Rabbit Trick." 

Effect. Two rabbits are produced from a hat, placed on the table, 
one is rubbed into the other : a third is then pulled from the inside of 
a gentleman's coat. Method. The two are first produced from pockets. 
In rubbing them on the table one is pushed through trap. The gentle- 
man, who is a confederate, has the third in his inside pocket. 

9-401. The Chinese Rings. 

Effect. Eight nine-inch steel rings given for examination, are found 
to be separate and solid, at the will of the operator they become linked 
together in an apparently inextricable mass. A shake causes them to fall 
apart upon the stage. Method. Rings really consist of one key ring, two 
single rings, a set of two and a set of three linked together. Many 
variations in combining them. 

9-251. The Shower of Sweets. 

Effect. A borrowed handkerchief is held over a plate when a shower 
of sweets pour forth and are caught by the plate. Method. A small 
bag with mouth closed by springs is introduced under handkerchief 
and opened. 

9-373- The Inexhaustible Bottle. 

Effect. Performer appears with bottle and glasses and serves any 
wine called for. Method. Bottle is of tin divided into a number of 
compartments, each tapering close to neck of bottle. A pin hole drilled 
into each compartment, fingers cover holes except the one to be drawn 


47 2 TRIPLETT : 

9-388. The Coffee Trick. 

Effect. Coffee berries change to hot coffee, white beans to sugar, 
and bran to hot milk. Method. By the use of apparatus of the 
double bottom order. Very manv variations of the false bottom type. 

9-398. The Wizard's Omelet. ' 

Effect. Three rings borrowed, three eggs produced and broken into 
a pan, alcohol poured in and ignited ; while still blazing the rings are 
dropped in, a cover placed over pan. When a pistol is fired cover is 
removed, and instead of omelet are found three live doves, each with 
ribbon around neck to which is attached a ring. Method. Rings were 
substituted. Assistant brings in the doves and rings in the double cover 
of the pan. 

9-309. The Cannon Balls in the Hat. 

Effect. A large cannon ball is found in a borrowed hat. Next a 
hundred goblets are taken from the hat, or a dozen large dolls or 
drums and bird cages, finally another cannon ball. Method. The first 
ball introduced into hat from table shelf is real, the second is hollow 
and contains a large number of spring dolls, collapsible bird cages, 

1-188. The Magic Bird Cage. 

Effect. After exhibiting cage and bird, performer tosses cage up into 
the air and it disappears. Method. Cage is collapsible. It is attached 
to a strong rubber cord, running between legs to back waistband and 
disappears under coat-tail. To vanish cage stand with legs somewhat 
apart, make the tossing movement upward and follow with the eyes. 

9-198. To Pass a Marked Coin into a Ball of Wool. 

Method. Wind wool on a flat tin tube, three or four inches in length. 
To end a coin trick slip coin in tube, then pull out tube. 

9-185. The Animated Coin which Answers Questions by Jumping up 
in a Tumbler. 

1. Method. A long black thread attached to coin by wax. Assist- 
ant behind scenes pulls thread. 

2. A piston working in hollow stem of tumbler is worked by assist- 
ant below stage. 


The Preparation of the Conjurer. 

The psychological principles involved in the training of the 
conjurer for expertness merit brief attention. To become an 
artist the possession of certain natural qualities are essential. A 
pleasing personality, a strong eye and a hypnotizing smile are 
elements contributing to success, for the magician must, above 
all else, be able to inspire confidence. He is pre-eminently a 
suggester or an actor playing the role of a sorcerer; with his 
magic wand in hand he is no longer amenable to the natural 
laws of earth, but disports himself in a realm of miracles. By 
his dramatic ability he clothes his feats in the magic garb which 
distinguishes them from the jugglers performances. 

In preparing for his art, two of the senses, sight and touch, 
must undergo special education. The famous Houdin, at the 
beginning of his career, was compelled to create the principles 
of his art and recognized the fundamental importance of these 
two senses. Taking a lesson from the skill acquired by pian- 


ists, he saw that " by practice 1 it would be possible to create a 
certainty of perception and facility of touch, rendering it easy for 
the artist to attend to several things simultaneously, while his 
hands were busy employed with some complicated task." To 
acquire this faculty he had recourse to juggling, practicing 
until he was able to keep four balls in the air while, at the same 
time, reading a book without hesitation. This is a feat demand- 
ing the most perfect muscular co-ordination and nice adjust- 
ment of eye to muscle. It affords an example of the marvellous 
perfection to which an organ may attain by practice. ' ' The 
juggler is obliged to give impetuses that vary infinitesimally. 
He must know the exact spot whither his ball will go, calcu- 
late the parabola that it will describe, and know the exact time 
it will take to describe it. His eye must take in the position of 
three, four or five balls that are sometimes several yards apart, 
and he must solve these different problems in optics, mechan- 
ics and mathematics instantaneously, ten, fifteen, twenty times 
per minute, and that, too, in the least convenient position." 2 
By reason of such practice Houdin's fingers acquired such a re- 
markable degree of delicacy and certainty that he was able in his 
performances to lift from a pack of cards the exact number called 
for without looking at them, being guided alone by his exqui- 
site tactual sense. His eye also gained a promptitude of percep- 
tion quite beyond the normal. When he came later to train his 
son and himself for the second sight trick he found that a greater 
power of discrimination was possible. The method at first 
adopted was to name the number of spots on a group of domi- 
noes at a glance. Beginning with nine spots they, at length, 
were able to give instantaneously the product of a dozen domi- 
noes. The next exercise attempted was more difficult. Passing 
rapidly before a shop window they cast an attentive glance upon 
its contents. Halting beyond, lists were made of the objects 
seen. The boy could often note as many as forty articles, and 
Houdin thirty. He relates that this power enabled him to see 
everything that went on in the audience without appearing to do 
so; and to carry on two trains of thought simultaneously, to attend 
to what he was doing and to what he was saying. This dual per- 
formance is possible, as M. Paulhan 8 has shown, where the opera- 
tions are easy and heterogeneous and have become very habitual. 
Where the processes must be sharply discriminated in conscious- 
ness, however, there is only rapid oscillation of attention. The 
acts and speech of the conjurer are practiced till they become to 
a great extent automatic and their simultaneous performance is 

1 Houdin's Memoirs, p. 48. 

2 Hopkins: Magic, etc., p. 139. 

8 Paulhan : Revue Scientifique, Vol. XXXIX, p. 684. 


easily possible, leaving the mind free for other work, and Houdin 
tells us that he frequently invented new tricks or applications 
while going through his performances. Nevertheless, occasions 
do arise, as the experiences of the artist mentioned indicate 
when, because of unexpected developments, it is necessary that 
both processes become focal. He says that on one occasion a spec- 
tator who had tried to baffle his son's clairvoyance in the second 
sight trick, asked him to name the number of his stall, which 
was covered by his cloak. A sharp tilt of words resulted, when 
the question was put to the boy and correctly answered. He 
says ' ' the way I succeeded in rinding out the number of the 
stall was this: I knew beforehand that in all theatres where 
the stalls are divided down the center by a passage, the uneven 
numbers are on the right and the even on the left; as each row 
was composed of ten stalls it followed that on the right hand 
the several rows must begin by one, twenty-one, forty-one, and 
so on, increasing by twenty each. Guided by this I had no 
difficulty in discovering that my opponent was seated in number 
sixty-nine, representing the fifth stall on the fourth row. ' ' The 
results attained by this artist have been cited at some length as 
an indication of what every expert conjurer must acquire by 
analogous means. 

Several questions may be raised as to what elements are in- 
volved in such an acquisition of skill, i. Does this training 
to extraordinary skill in sense perception indicate a training in 
the organ involved, or in the brain centers ? 2. How far, if 
at all, is this acquired ability of one sense or organ an educa- 
tion of others? As to the first question the answer may be 
made that both are true. The conjurer's hands "make the 
pass" and similar movements mechanically, for skill is largely 
by way of increase of automatic action. These feats work 
themselves while his mind is more or less actively leading off 
the attention of the audience to other matters. Beside greater 
perfection of movement, practice also brings increase of rapidity. 
Jastrow 1 has made experiments on Hermann and Kellar, the 
two most noted conjurers of the age, which demonstrate this. 
' ' For Mr. Hermann the maximum number of movements of 
the forefinger alone was 72 in 10 seconds, or 7.2 per second, 
and of the forearm 75 or 7. 5 per second. For Mr. Kellar, fore- 
finger 83 in 15 seconds or 5.5 per second and for the forearm 
127 or 8.2 per second. The average of a large number of in- 
dividuals for the forefinger movement was 5.4 per second, and 
of a group of ten persons, tested more nearly in the same way 
as were Messrs. Hermann and Kellar, 4. 8 per second. The 

1 Jastrow, Joseph : Psychological notes on sleight of hand experts, 
Science, Vol. Ill, p. 685. 


average forearm movement of the same ten persons was 7.5 per 
second. It thus appears that the movement for both Mr. Her- 
mann and Mr. Kellar are rapid, Mr. Hermann's forefinger 
movement being exceptionally so, while Mr. Kellar's forearm 
movement is the better." In the ordinary form of reaction 
experiments for touch, sound and sight both of the special 
subjects reacted far more quickly than the ordinary individual. 
In the eye there is probably some gain in power of peripheral 
vision by such training as Houdin underwent ; an idea of how 
far such increased efficiency is due to better habits of attention, 
however, may be gained from the studies of Dr. Ranke * on the 
South American Indians. He marvelled at the keenness of 
sight of his Indian guides. Nothing escaped them. They 
could shoot a fish in swift-flowing water, estimating correctly 
for refraction; could distinguish animals protectively colored 
from the background; could follow a trail on the ground where 
the whites saw nothing. He tested them with Snellen Types 
and found that in keenness of vision their eyes were no better 
than Europeans. He concluded that the differences lay in the 
fact that the Indians, through long practice, had a better apper- 
ception of what was to be seen. In time he learned to repeat 
their performances. Such studies suggest that the wonderful 
power of Houdin and his boy consisted largely in their ability 
to make focal in the mind those obscure stimuli which for the 
ordinary person hover faintly in the margin of consciousness. 

The second question, as to how far training of one organ is 
capable of increasing the power of others, has not yet reached 
the point where a definite answer can be given. Experiments 
on both the physical and mental processes have been made, but 
the results are conflicting. F£re" 2 found that motor-training 
increased the dermal sensibility. Leland, 8 from various visual 
exercises, claimed that increased power of relating and com- 
paring was given and that in time the intellectual ability was 
increased. Miss Aiken 4 states that by a daily period of visual 
exercises with a rotating blackboard, a gain in power of con- 
centration and discrimination was made which showed its effects 
also in other departments of the school work. On the other 
hand Jastrow 6 found that in estimation of movement of various 
kinds and in complicated mental reactions, the experts, Her- 
mann and Kellar, both fell below the normal. In educational 

1 Dr. J. Ranke : Studies of the Senses of South American Indians, 
Gesellschaft Anthropologi, 1897. 

2 Fer£, Ch.: ^'influence de I/dducation de la Motilite volontaire 
sur La Sensibilite. Revue Phil., 1897, p. 596. 

8 Leland C: Practical Education. 

4 Aiken, Miss C: Methods of Mind-training. 

6 Jastrow, Joseph : loc. cit. 

47 6 TRIPLETT : 

circles the mental gymnastic theory has lost ground, at least it 
is recognized that it must not be overworked. In the field of 
motor- training, however, with which we are chiefly concerned, 
it seems safe to say that training of one organ gives added 
power in others — certainly strengthening the symmetrical organ 
and probably giving finer co-ordination to the whole organism. 
Scripture * and his students have investigated these questions, 
and their results show clearly the gain in power made by the 
unpracticed member, an effect that undoubtedly comes about 
through the higher development of the nerve centers in the 
brain. Or put in other terms, the increased capacity is possible 
because of a better stock of images of movement. 

Returning to the training of the conjurer we find among his 
accomplishments an unusual degree of skill with the hand. 
A special grasping power of the muscles of the inside of the 
hand must be cultivated, as it is the principle of palming, which 
is the chief means used to cause the disappearance of coins, 
balls, etc., the hand concealing the object while in appearance 
it is held open. 

The special education of the conjurer calls attention to the 
harmony between the members of the body. In simple organ- 
isms all movements are movements of the entire body; con- 
tractions and expansions; with all the differentiation that has 
come about in the higher orders the tendency is still for the 
whole nervous organism to act as a unit. So closely associated 
are the sensory and motor processes, when in the bonds of 
attentive perception, that an object or movement of any sort 
engaging the attention of the individual is at once brought 
into the focus of vision. He is impelled to reach out and take 
hold of it or go towards it; at the same time his language will 
relate to the thing occupying him. All his powers are held in 
subjection to it, to the greater or less disregard of the rest of 
the world. With the conjurer it is otherwise. The " misdirec- 
tion ' ' upon which he depends for establishing his illusions is 
brought about by a subversion of the order above mentioned. 
He must learn dissociation. The hand most in evidence no 
longer acts in aid of the idea which the mind is attempting to 
have executed and which is indeed being quietly performed 
by the other hand. The eyes also cease to dwell on the act, 
and the words spoken to be in explanation of it, but rather 
serve to call attention to an unessential or a non-existent part. 
By gesture, glance and speech is the attention captured, and 
while thus psychically blinding his audience the artist calmly 
proceeds with the performance of his trick. In overcoming all 

Scripture E. W.: Studies from the Yale Psych. Lab., Vol. VI, 
also Cross-education, Pop. Sci. Mon., March, 1900. 


these natural tendencies the performer must reverse the con- 
ventional theory and practice in education. He must oppose 
nature's law of economy and forge against the line of greatest 
resistance. The result of which is that he gains a region where 
the thought of ordinary men cannot follow. He now lives in 
the realm of miracles. 

The road to excellence is a difficult one. In working up an 
illusion the artist must practice unceasingly till he has mastered 
the mechanical portion; he must then devote himself to the 
dramatic element, which as regards the effect upon the specta- 
tor, is by far the more important portion. He must not lose 
sight of the fact that he is playing the role of a magician, of a 
being possessing supernatural powers, and in every word and 
gesture should live up to the spirit of his part. Great deliber- 
ation in action is essential, as care must be taken not to make 
a parade of dexterity or to do anything to suggest the idea that 
the effects are produced as the result of dexterity. As before 
stated the secret of success lies in the appeal to certain mental 
habits and not in extreme rapidity of action. Chronophoto- 
graphic pictures of the hands of a prestidigitateur were taken 
by Binet * at the rate of ten or twelve per second. Sleight of 
hand tricks performed with one or both hands were taken. 
' ' One is struck, ' ' he remarks, ' ' on seeing the photos, with the 
fact of not finding therein the illusion which is so plain when 
the trick is executed before the eyes. ' ' The perfection of con- 
juring lies in the ars artem celandi — in so mystifying the spec- 
tators that they are unable to suggest any solution of the won- 
ders they have seen. 

It is essential that the second phase of a transformation be 
not exhibited until the audience have clearly perceived the first; 
the change of one card to another, of one coin to two, falls 
decidedly fiat if the first stage was not clearly perceived. So 
in transforming an orange to an apple it is essential that the 
spectators notice that it was first an orange. Furthermore 
they cannot be trusted even then to make the idea focal in con- 
sciousness. They are in a more or less passive condition and 
the artist must strongly suggest the idea he would have enter- 
tained. It is difficult to fuily comprehend the unique power 
his accomplishments and versatility afford the conjurer. To 
the amateur it is a revelation to find with what ease the audience 
can be deceived. The experience is pleasing. It fosters con- 
fidence in himself and gives him a sense of power. The au- 
dacity and coolness of the professional magician are a natural 
growth springing from the conditions with which his unique 

'Binet: La Psychologie de la Prestidigitation. Revue Philosophique, 
1894, pp. 346-348. 

478 TRIPLET! : 

profession surrounds him. His success in his art depends in 
large measure on these qualities, but on the other hand they 
follow on an easy success. In time there develops the sang 
froid which does not admit of failure. Possessing several ways 
of performing a trick and being aware that the spectators will 
not know when he does fail, he carries off the affair to some 
conclusion possibly much different from his original intention. 


Psychological Justification of the Rules and Prac- 
tices of the Conjurer. 

While the long list of conjuring tricks is of so varied a nature, 
both in method of performance and in effect, as to preclude all 
thought of classification according to psychological laws it is 
still true that some general rules have arisen which are observed 
by the artists in the profession, and many special practices ap- 
plicable to individual tricks. It will be seen that these illus- 
trate in a striking manner some of the ordinary laws of psychic 

i. Attention. The mechanical portion of a feat of sleight 
of hand, it has been stated, possesses little power to illude the 
senses, that characteristic lies in the psychological features with 
which the performer clothes it.- The technical outward appear- 
ance; the use of apparatus and dexterity count for little beside 
the ingenious use of certain mental processes. Of these atten- 
tion deserves a prominent place. It is through the operation 
of attention, in large measure, that the effects are secured. 
Since it is so nearly conterminous with consciousness this is 
indeed to be expected. The division of attention adopted here 
is the common one of spontaneous or passive and active atten- 
tion, but so far as the subject relates to the audience little notice 
need be taken of the latter. It is on the play of passive atten- 
tion among the audience that the magician depends for establish- 
ing his illusions. 

Manipulation of Attention Through Gesture and 


Under this head may well be treated the part the attention 
plays in the production of conjuring illusions, (a) Gesture as 
here used includes every purposive movement of the hand, body 
and eye, and indeed all the play of features to express emotions 
or ideas, (b) The " patter " is the spoken discourse relating 
to the feats. The proper understanding and application of both 
classes of actions are of the greatest importance to the conjurer. 

Gesture, Probably no better examples of the effect of com- 
munity life upon the individuals of which it is composed, are 


afforded than are found in the performances under discussion. 
A few illustrations will make this apparent. The conjurer 
plays upon certain fixed mental habits of the audience. He 
relies upon these to create a favorable opportunity to effect a 
given disappearance unknown to the spectators. The move- 
ments designed to divert attention are numerous. Each trick 
has its own appropriate gestures combined with the patter 
which supplies the pretext for them. In vanishing a dollar 
this is seen clearly. The description of this manceuver given 
by Dessoir * is excellent. The artist ' ' takes the coin in his left 
hand, looks closely at the right hand, as if it were the most 
important and then takes hold of the dollar. This trick is so 
convincing that you would be willing to swear the right hand 
held the coin; the position of the fingers adapts them naturally 
to this supposition. As soon as he has taken hold he moves 
his right hand sideways away from the left hand, the whole 
body follows the movement, the head bent forward, the look in 
the eyes, everything forces the spectator to follow this hand. 
In the meantime the first two fingers of the left hand point to 
the right hand, while the two other fingers hold the coin which 
is covered by the thumb. By such shading, and particularly by 
the constant talking of the artist, the whole attention is con- 
centrated on the right hand, and everybody makes up his mind 
to pay close attention to see how the dollar will disappear from 
this hand. He makes little backward movements with the 
fingers, by which they move gradually away from the palm of 
the hand, and apparently deeply interested in the phenomenon 
he says, ' ' See how the dollar grows smaller and smaller, there 
it has disappeared entirely, melted away, ' ' He opens the fingers 
wide, straightens himself up, and the sparkling eyes seem to 
say, "How queerly that disappeared; it is strange." Again 
the performer ostentatiously places some article on one corner 
of the table at which he is performing, while the left hand, 
finding its way behind the table, gets possession of some hidden 
article to be later produced. In the trick of producing cannon 
balls from an empty hat, the first ball shown is real, the second 
is of hard wood painted black, and is placed beforehand on the 
servante. To introduce it into the hat which has just been 
shown to be empty, one takes the hat in the right hand, leaving 
the middle finger free to insert in a hole bored in the ball. The 
performer now advances his left hand to take the wand or some 
other article which is placed toward the front of the table, as 
a natural consequence of this movement the body is bent for- 
ward a little, the right hand sinks gently down to the level of 

1 Dessoir Max: The Psych, of Legerdemain. The Open Court, Vol. 
VII, p. 3609. 

480 TRiPLETT : 

the table and the middle finger forthwith finds its way into the 
ball, lifts it up, and introduces it into the hat which covers the 
act completely. The spectators suspect nothing because they 
have been looking at the article picked up from the table and 
not at the hat. Sometimes by the ruflling of the cards the 
opportune moment is created; sometimes a ball is thrown into 
the air in order to gain an opportunity during the same instant, 
of taking unseen with the left hand another ball from the pocket 
or table shelf. Again a mere tap of the wand on any spot, at 
the same time looking at it attentively, will infallibly draw the 
eyes of the company in the same direction. Hermann's biog- 
rapher says of him that "his ' misdirection ' was beyond ex- 
pression. If his luminous eyes turned in a certain direction, 
all eyes were compelled (as by some mysterious power) to fol- 
low, giving his marvellously dextrous hands the better chance 
to perform those tricks that were the admiration and wonder of 
the world. ' ' 

Gesture, as to its power to attract attention, is to be referred 
back to a study of action in relation to the struggle for exist- 
ence. Through far-reaching ages of primitive life in the war 
of all against all, it was essential to every creature to have an 
eye out for the moving object. In it lay the source of danger 
or dinner, as the case might be. Existence itself depended upon 
giving the moving object a correct interpretation. It was hence 
essential that it be brought into the field of clearest vision. The 
reflex reaction to movement in the eye was thus established 
through stern necessity, and still persists. 

The biological significance of attention to movement as a 
means of self-preservation is attested in the fact that ' ' both 1 the 
magnitude and rapidity of objective movement are far more ade- 
quately cognized in indirect than in direct vision." Experiment 
shows this to be true of the human eye, and the observations 
of hunters indicate that the fact applies in even greater degree 
to those wild animals to whom attention is still a condition of 
life; who maintain existence by being able to sense movement 
of prey to be caught or enemies to be avoided. 

A further reason for attention to gesture or movement, of a 
social nature, is found by studying the expressive movements 
in man and those animals which are able to interpret the mean- 
ing of various signals expressive of psychic states. Certain herds 
of wild animals and flocks of birds station out sentries while the 
remainder feed; at the approach of danger a signal is given which 
is understood and responded to by the other members. In gen- 
eral the higher animals are able to give expression to their emo- 
tions through certain movements analogous to those made use 

1 Kuelpe : Outlines of Psychology, p. 363. 


of by man. Darwin 1 has commented on the significance of these 
movements, showing, in the case of man, that he was first a 
gesticulatory animal, and that, as is still the case with ani- 
mals, the first gestures were of an instinctive emotional nature. 
" There is no doubt, " says Mosso, 2 " that the first human beings 
were dumb, and that men for a long time made use of gesture 
language for purposes of mutual understanding before they dis- 
covered sound language. The child, too, before it is able to 
talk expresses itself by gestures. It observes the looks of its 
parents and of the persons who speak to it in order to compre- 
hend the meaning of the words heard." 

At the second stage, following Wundt's classification, are the 
mimetic movements expressive of qualitative feelings. The type 
is readily recognizable in the taste reflexes corresponding to 
sour, sweet, saline and bitter impressions, On the third level 
we have pantomimetic movements expressive of ideas, capable 
of designating the object of an emotion, or describing the object 
as well as the processes connected with it by the form of the 
movement. As regards the subject of attention to gesture this 
third group is of greatest importance. Speech is genetically 
derived from gesture, at any rate it is safe to say that articula- 
tory language arose as an accompaniment to gesture. "As evi- 
dence for this view we have the unrestrained use of such ges- 
tures by savages, and the important part they play in the child's 
learning to speak." 8 Mallory has declared that gestures in the 
wide sense indicated, of presenting ideas under physical forms, 
has had a direct formative effect upon language; and that 
" they exhibit 4 the earliest condition of the human mind, are 
traced from the remotest antiquity among all peoples possessing 
records; are generally prevalent in the savage state of social 
evolution; survive agreeably in the scenic pantomime and still 
adhere to the ordinary speech of civilized man by motions of 
the face, hands, head and body, often involuntary, often pur- 
posely in illustration or for emphasis. ' ' 

The facts cited show a reason for attention to movements of 
gesture, the effect of which has been to engraft the reflex on the 
nervous system. 

(b) Patter. The " boniment " or " patter " is the story told 
by the performer. It is the verbal clothing, in fact the " mise 
en scene ' ' by which an illusion is given an appearance of reality. 
Talleyrand remarked that ' ' speech was given to man in order to 
disguise his thoughts. ' ' 

1 Darwin : Expression in the Emotions in Men and Animals. 

2 Mosso : Clark University Lectures, 1899, p. 393. 
8 Wundt : Outlines of Psychology, p. 300. 

4 Mallory : Sign Language of North American Indians, First Annual 
Report Bureau of Ethn., p. 285. 


This is, at least, its use in the case of the diplomat and the 
magician. Of each of these it is true that ' ' he says what he 
does not do, he does not do what he says, and what he actually 
does he takes particular care not to say anything about." 

When a conjurer invents a new trick, he generally composes 
at the same time a special patter to accompany it. This must 
be memorized carefully, however ready a speaker the magician 
may ordinarily be. Such is the testimony of all the conjurers 
who have written on the subject : Houdin, Hoffman, Garenne 
Sachs, etc. The reason for this is similar to that for the practice 
of gesture. Speech is a form of motor expression. It is funda- 
mentally an impulsive act and tends to appear in connection 
with gestures, as in all probability it had its development by a 
process of differentiation from gesture. Truth-telling is the 
natural mode within the tribe, whether among animals or men, 
as a consideration of mimetic, pantomimetic, and other expres- 
sive movements shows. The conjurer if giving way to the 
natural tendency would suit the word to the action. In reality 
he forces himself to talk glibly of the trick in a misleading way 
but with all semblance of truth, else will the trick fail in its 
effect. He therefore speaks by rote one set of words, while 
his thoughts which would ordinarily be given vocal expression 
in accompaniment with the performance, direct the real act 
which is taking place behind all this feint of hand, eye and 

Two not wholly separable elements of the misdirection of 
attention found in the spoken portion of the conjuring illusion 
may be seen from the foregoing presentation. (1) The power 
of vocal expression as mere gesture to call the eyes to the per- 
former's face thereby lessening the force of attention to the act 
being performed. (2) By means of the suggestive power of 
the ideas in the patter to so shunt off the mental processes as 
to facilitate the trick. Examples of the first are seen in the 
way the performer springs a joke at the critical stage and 
thus makes for himself a favorable opportunity. When a 
card has been chosen and returned to the pack the artist does 
not at once make the pass to get possession of the card, as that 
might arouse suspicion, but after a moment he says to the 
chooser : ' ' Are you sure you will recognize the card again ? ' ' 
All eyes are then involuntarily raised to his face for an instant, 
but in that instant the pass is made by a slight movement, at 
best almost imperceptible, and the card transferred to the top 
where it may afterward be disposed of as the trick demands. 

The second offers a case of greater complexity. The sig- 
nificance of the words themselves are here of great importance 
in inducing the audience to attribute effects to other than their 
true cause; hence a feat of dexterity must be attributed to 


mechanism or science and a trick really depending on scientific 
principles offered as a result of sleight of hand. This phase 
of the patter is indeed in many cases an accommodation to the 
apperception of the audience and will be further discussed in a 
succeeding chapter. 

So far the discussion has pertained chiefly to passive attention, 
the aspect exhibited by untrained animals and men in a naive 
state. Active attention may be brought into play, however, 
by the" observer of the feats of the modern conjurer, for unlike 
the spectators of ancient magic he is conscious that he is being 
deceived and may make an effort to solve the problems pre- 
sented. Dessoir x states that " the ignorant are more difficult 
to deceive than the educated. The former sees in every ' tour ' 
a mistrust of his intelligence, an attempt to dupe him, against 
which he fights with all his might, while the latter gives him- 
self up willingly to the illusion as he came for the purpose of 
being deceived." 

Psychologically this means that the man of education gives 
only passive attention to the succeeding phases of the trick, 
while in the case of the ignorant person there is a struggle be- 
tween active and passive attention. That the ignorant man is 
harder to deceive, however, may be questioned, and for two 
reasons. In the first place, recalling the monoideistic character 
of attention, it is a truism that attention to one thing means 
inattention to others, and that the very intensity of effort in 
one direction weakens effort in others. Now the conj urer always 
takes good care to do the other thing. Second is the differ- 
ence in capacity for understanding the nature of the feat in the 
two classes. A large majority of the illusions require for solu- 
tion more of an apperceptive basis than the ignorant man pos- 
sesses; besides in many cases some lingering belief that ' there 's 
magic in it ' stands in the way of a proper understanding of 
the trick. However, the performer prefers passivity and a non- 
critical state and seeks in every way to guard against the rise 
of active attention. He observes the rule ' ' never to reveal in 
advance the nature of the effect to be produced," in order not 
to focus attention. For example, where an article is to be made 
to disappear after counting one, two, three, the change is made 
at the one or two, as the minds of the audience are actively 
centered on the three and do not notice what takes place before 
that. The same reason holds for another conjuring rule: 
' ' never to repeat the same trick twice in one evening unless the 
manner of performing it is varied. ' ' 

We may summarize this section with the observation that the 
fixed mental habits, evolved for useful purposes, to avoid being 

1 Dessoir : The Psychology of Legerdemain. Open Court, Vol. VII. 


surprised and deceived, are the very agents employed by the 
conjurer to effect this end. 

2. Perception. Certain aspects of attention have been pre- 
sented in the preceding section. In some of its phases atten- 
tion is inseparable from the discussion of all conscious processes, 
hence a treatment of perception is at the same time a treatment 
of attention. In the succeeding discussion of the perceptive 
processes, therefore, we merely shift the point of view, empha- 
sizing for the time the effects produced through stimulation of 
the sense organs, with the subjective modification these products 

Perceptions are combinations of sensational and ideational 
elements. The latter are complexes built up for the most part 
from sensations previously experienced. In an unusual degree 
conjuring offers opportunity for the study of these elements as 
they enter into the phase ordinarily called apperception. In no 
other field, perhaps, is the part contributed from past experi- 
ence, or in Professor James's phrase the part which "always 
comes out of our own head" so large. Perception refers to 
concepts. Apperception depends on the contents of the mind 
as conditioned by the past life. The new is interpreted in terms 
of the old and in accordance with habits of mental action 
previously formed. In this tendency of the mind to act in cer- 
tain habitual lines corresponding to the law of mental economy 
is found the key to a large part of the illusions of conjuring. 
The magician is skilled in appealing to the strongest appercep- 
tive centers of his audience. The history of conjuring, as of 
human deception, generally reveals how advantage has always 
been taken of the prevailing thought of the community. The 
priestcraft of the nations of antiquity in their thaumaturgical 
operations to acquire power relied on the superstitious fancies 
of the people to give a miraculous color to the simple tricks 
of sleight-of-hand, the facts of true science, and all the means 
of imposture employed. 

Serious magic as a mental prepossession has continued, though 
with ever decreasing intensity, to be a factor in conjuring down 
to the present time. When Descartes asserted that animals were 
mere automata he gave a new cue to the conjurers. While the 
public mind was vibrating with this idea, automatic ducks, swans 
and other creatures were introduced by the conjurers of the 
time, and continued in evidence for more than a century and a 
half. No one knew better than Houdin how to make use of 
this popular apperceptive element. His aerial suspension trick, 
as presented, gave the appearance of the subject, the six year 
old son of Houdin, sleeping in the air, with one hand support- 
ing the head, and the elbow of the same arm resting on the top 
of an upright rod. The secret of the trick lay in the ingenious 


mechanical apparatus concealed under the clothes of the child, 
and would have been easily guessed had it been presented in a 
bald form devoid of its apperceptive stage-setting. But as given 
by the magician it was the "suspension in equilibrium by 
atmospheric air through the action of concentrated ether. ' ' Sur- 
gery supplied him with the idea. He says " it will be remem- 
bered that in 1847 the insensibility produced by inhaling ether 
began to be applied in surgical operations; all the world talked 
about the marvellous effects of this anaesthetic and its extra- 
ordinary results. In the eyes of many people it seemed much 
akin to magic." "The experiment was received with hearty 
applause. Still it sometimes happened that sensitive persons, 
regarding the etherization too seriously, protested in their hearts 
against the applause, and wrote me letters, in which they severely 
upbraided the unnatural father who sacrificed the health of his 
poor child to the pleasures of the public. Some went so far as 
to threaten me with the terrors of the law if I did not give up 
my inhuman performance." All this testifies to the complete- 
ness of the illusion. The public mind was so filled, at this time, 
with the quackery of mesmerism and the magical possibilities of 
ether that they were prepared to believe in the ability of a per- 
son to sleep in the air, without other support than the upright 
rod on which the sleeper's elbow rested, rather than suspect the 
existence of concealed mechanism. When the ether story later 
became threadbare the feat was introduced as an effect of electro- 
magnetism. The manner in which the conjurers appeal to topics 
of popular interest to lead the public to a wrong interpretation 
of a trick is illustrated in the modern fashion of presenting every 
feat admitting of it in a garb of pretended hypnotism. 

We now pass from the general view of apperception to a con- 
sideration of particular phases of it better termed preperception. 
In this case the ideational element is seen to be more definite, 
and is, in a measure, called up at the will of the performer. 

The centrally excited portion of the perception varies with 
the individual and with the character of the stimulus. In 
common with the sensational elements from the peripheral or- 
gans, it possesses among its attributes quality and intensity. 
The relation which these bear to the corresponding attributes 
of the products of the sense-organs have been made the subject 
of investigation. Miinsterberg * has found that if a word is 
displayed for a brief time which presents some slight difference 
from another word, it is read as though this difference were not 
visible, provided that a word is previously called out to the 
observer which stands in intimate association to the other, but 
has nothing to do with the actual impression. Thus, "part " 

1 Miinsterberg : Beitrage zur Experimentellen Psychologie, Heft. 4. 


is read as "past," if future is suggested, "fright" as "fruit," 
if vegetable is given. The effect is a probable result of the 
excitement of the ideational centers from first attending to the 
class. Similar results have also been found by Pillsbury. 1 

Kuelpe 2 in his study of illusory perception obtained judgments 
of subjective and objective illumination of a dark surface. 
' ' The observer sat at his ease in a darkened chamber, and was 
required to say whether he saw anything, and if so, what it 
was like, and whether he thought it was objective or subjective. 
The only objective phenomenon introduced was a faint illu- 
mination of the dark wall facing the subject, given at irregular 
intervals, for various periods of time, and at different degrees 
of intensity. Nearly all the observers were liable to confusion 
when the stimulus approached the limen; an objective was very 
seldom subjectified, but a subjective frequently objectified." 
The experiments showed that the extent of stimulation over 
which confusion is possible is very small, and that the normal 
intensity of the centrally excited visual sensations is therefore 
exceedingly weak. 

It is plain, however, that cold-blooded experiments in a labo- 
ratory can give little idea of the mental contribution made in 
the case of an imaginative person whose centers are quivering 
with emotional excitement. In the conjuring illusions much 
of the effect lies in the anticipatory preparation of the ideational 
centers concerned with the object of attention, the performer 
determining what, preparation shall be made. 

On the fact that we act with certainty on our knowledge of 
the phenomenal world rests the ordinary conviction of the 
identity of things as they are and as they appear to the ob- 
server. Ages of response to this idea have rendered our trust 
in the senses so implicit, and given such fixed mental habits, 
that numberless errors and illusions, historical and personal, 
fail to shake our confidence. An obvious inference may be 
drawn from the diversion of attention mentioned in the last 
section. Beside the mere switching aside of the sensorial at- 
tention by gesture, as noted, the awakening of new images by 
means of the patter is equally as important. The fire of witty 
talk, the evocation of spirits, cabalistic signs, attribution of 
power to wand, etc., are all effective. A reason for attributing 
scientific effects to sleight of hand and the reverse will now 
more plainly appear. A simple trick is that of causing a 
coin to instantly dissolve when put in a tumbler said to contain 
a powerful acid. The coin is palmed and a substituted glass 
disk is dropped into the water beneath a handkerchief, profes- 

1 Pillsbury: A Study of Apperception. American Journal of Psy- 
chology, Vol. VIII, No. 3. 
2 Kuelpe: Outlines of Psychology, p. 184. 


sedly used to prevent acid fumes from arising. The spectators, 
always prone to adopt a complicated hypothesis, hearing as 
they believe the chink of the falling coin, and being given the 
idea that acid is at work may overlook the more simple explana- 
tion. The chief part of conjuring lies in the artist's ability to 
so lead the thoughts of the audience into chosen paths, to 
awaken at the proper time such new images that the develop- 
ment of the trick appears for the moment as the logical outcome 
of the surrounding conditions; then by the production of a 
result totally unexpected and at variance the sense of illusion 
is produced. Nothing is neglected which may assist in this 
result. In arranging the programme each trick is made more 
surprising than the last. Every effort is made to so fill the 
mind with a feeling of the wonderful, and so far as possible 
with special ideas, that the imagination is ready to respond in 
the next step taken. Conjuring is thus seen to be a kind of 
game of preperception wherein the performer so plays upon the 
psychical processes of his audience that the issues are as he 

The perception which occurs under conditions of vivid expec- 
tation shows how the inward reproduction may completely domi- 
nate the sensory element and create a product of the imagina- 
tion in intensity rivaling reality. 

Where the nature of the object which is expected to appear 
is known in advance, anticipatory preparation may then have 
ready a preformed image to spring at any instant of time. An 
analogy is that of the person whose mind is so superstitiously 
primed that any white tree-trunk or post will explode the ghost 
centers. The principle that one sees what one expects to see, 
finds, perhaps, its best exemplication in the conjuring shows of 
the materializing medium. It is difficult for the scientist to read 
himself into the peculiar state of mind of the ' ' sitters ' ' who 
firmly believe that the spirit of their departed friends are really 
with them in the room, and who, by having their intelligence 
paralyzed by a belief in the supernatural, are easy marks for 
the charlatans who, despite frequent exposures, are continually 
springing up to take advantage of human frailty. Much of the 
effect is accounted for when the " mise en scene" is held in 
remembrance: everything is so disposed as to contribute to an 
atmosphere of mystery. A darkened room; a circle of suggesti- 
ble subjects infecting each other, and all strained to the highest 
pitch of vivid expectation: their psychical centers hyperaesthet- 
ically excited by the desire to learn of their loved ones whose 
images fill the mind, and whose actual presence is felt. These 
are not conditions conducive to sharp sight and logical judg- 
ment, but they make the work of the medium easy. In this 
abnormal state of the subjects the sensorial is almost at the 
Journal — 4 


mercy of the preperceptive element. Any rustling noise is attrib- 
uted to spiritual agency; every light reflection is taken for a 
spirit form. The literature of the subject is full of illustrations. 
The author of " Revelations of a Spirit Medium " who confesses 
that by his skill in the performance of his feats he has con- 
verted hundreds of people to a belief in spiritualism, giving 
them undoubted evidence of life beyond the grave, states that 
when beginning the practice of cabinet tricks before a circle of 
spiritualistic friends in his apprentice days he noted their prone- 
ness to attribute every slight occurrence to spiritual agency. 
A handkerchief illuminated by phosphorus on being pushed 
through the opening of the cabinet was seen by the sitters as a 
human head and face. ' ' It was set down as a case of etheriali- 
zation, 1 as they declared they could look right through it and 
see the curtain behind it. One gentleman, a doctor, declared 
he could see the whole convolutions of the brain. Thus they 
helped out the show with their imaginations and made a repu- 
tation for the medium." He learned later that by putting a 
wire gauze mask in front of the handkerchief a luminous face 
and head was presented. He recounts that ' ' that wire mask 
has been recognized by dozens of persons as fathers, mothers, 
sisters, brothers, cousins, sweethearts, wives, husbands, and 
various other relatives and friends. ' ' The same author, allud- 
ing to the tendency to allow the imagination to dominate what 
is seen, after describing an easy process for producing spirit 
pictures by transferring outline pictures to a slate, states that 
he ' ' knows 2 of, at least, five people who have recognized friends 
in Lydia Pinkham's newspaper cut after it had been transferred 
to the medium's slate." Not to multiply needlessly examples 
illustrating how the perceptions are determined by the intensity 
of the interest — Dessoir 8 quotes the case of a scientist who had 
difficulty to restrain himself from laughing when he ' ' heard the 
same puppet successively addressed as 'grandmother,' 'my 
sweet Betty,' 'papa,' and 'little Rob.'" Reflecting on this 
propensity of the mind he acutely observes, ' ' create a belief and 
the facts will create themselves." 

3. Suggestion and Association. The part which the accom- 
panying images play in the perceptive process has been set 
forth. Under the above heading will next be shown how the 
performer manipulates these ideas in the minds of his audi- 
ence, juggling with them much as he does with the articles he 
handles. Suggestion is the switching-key by means of which 
he ushers in the ideas necessary to his purposes. 

1 Revelations of a Spirit Medium, p. 90. 
2 Ibid., p. 147. 

'Dessoir: The Psych, of Legerdemain, Chap. V, Open Court, Vol. 


Several aspects of normal suggestion are related to our sub- 

1 • Suggestions of Repetition. In a certain class of tricks the 
following conjuring rule applies: " First actually do what the 
spectators are to be led to believe you do. ' ' In these cases the 
conjurer prepares the way by the formation in the minds of the 
spectators of proper associations. In the well-known trick of 
firing from a pistol the broken pieces of several borrowed rings 
this is the principle involved. The pistol is fired at a box placed 
on a stand. The box is then unlocked and a second locked box 
taken from this containing a third, and so on, — finally reaching 
the last of the series of boxes which, when unlocked, contains 
the rings tied to roses. In one form of the trick the rings are 
not in the series of boxes at all, but after the artist has demon- 
strated that the second has been taken from the first and the 
third from the second, etc. , it becomes easy to take the casket 
containing the rings from the shelf behind the table, where the 
assistant has placed it, by lifting it up as though from the pre- 
ceding casket. By the first steps the association is formed so 
that no doubt is felt that the rings were really in the nest of 
boxes. Another element entering here is found in the general 
tendency to short-circuit all possible processes. After the first 
or second time the people become impatient, as always at 
repeated action, and relax in keenness of attention, and if the 
performer seems to hurry later it is in line with the desire of the 
audience. In the Chinese ring trick, by giving certain rings to 
be examined, receiving them back and adroitly giving them out 
again the artist manages to create the impression that all have 
been examined, and the effect upon the spectators is all the 
more startling by reason of the eight rings shown by inspection 
to be without opening, later linking themselves together in 
various combinations in the hands of the performer. The pos- 
sibilities of illusory perception under the influence of sugges- 
tions of repetition may be well illustrated by a portion of a 
sleight-of-hand trick given in some detail. The effect of the 
trick known as " A Shower of Money " is as follows: The per- 
former borrows a hat which he holds in his left hand. He then 
announces that he requires a number of (say) half dollars for 
the purposes of his trick, but, he continues, " as there seems to 
be a good deal of money around to-night I will not be at the trou- 
ble of borrowing, but just help myself." He then begins to 
pick the coins out of the air, finds one climbing up the wall, 
another in a spectator's whiskers, under a lady's foot, and so 
on. At each supposed new discovery the performer takes with 
his right hand, from some place where there was clearly noth- 
ing an instant before, a coin which he drops into the hat held 
in his left hand. The explanation of the trick is very simple, 


being merely a practical application of the art of ' ' palming. ' ' 
The performer provides himself beforehand with the number of 
coins he desires for his experiment. ' ' Of these he palms two 
in his right hand and the remainder in his left. When he takes 
the hat he holds it in the left hand, with the fingers inside and 
the thumb outside, in which position it is comparatively easy 
to drop the coins, one by one, from the hand into the hat. 
When he pretends to see the first coin floating in the air he lets 
one of the coins in his right hand drop to his finger tips, and, 
making a clutch at the air, produces it as if just caught. This 
first coin he really drops into the hat, taking care that all shall 
see clearly that he does so. He then goes through a similar pro- 
cess with the second; but when the time comes to drop it into 
the hat, he merely pretends to do so, palming the coin quickly 
in the right hand, and at the same moment letting fall into the 
hat one of the coins concealed in his left hand. The audience 
perceiving the sound, coincident with the movement, naturally 
believe it to be occasioned by the fall of the coin they have just 
seen. The process is repeated until the coins in the left hand 
are exhausted. Once more the performer appears to clutch a 
coin from space, and showing for the last time that which has 
all along been in his right hand, tosses it into the air and catches 
it visibly." 1 

When the artist really throws the first coin into the hat he 
leads the spectators to infer the same result from the subsequent 
similar movements. The chink of the falling coin strengthens 
the illusion and the ostentatious catching of the final coin clinches 
it. To still further mystify the audience and to remove the sus- 
picion that the coins were all along concealed in his hand, the 
performer sometimes uses his producing wand, which is so made 
that on pressing a little stud a slit coin springs out on the end, 
giving the effect of having been taken out of the air. It is used 
in connection with the money slide, an apparatus for holding 
money concealed under the vest. The hand can now be shown 
empty, but by pressing on the side with the right hand at the 
same instant a coin is made to appear on the wand, which he 
can then do unobserved, he obtains the needed coin. Under 
cover of taking the coin from the wand he withdraws it into 
the wand and shows the one in his right hand, which is thrown 
into the hat. He can then repeat. Where the same result can 
be produced by two wholly different methods the effect on the 
audience is most bewildering, as any conjectures as to the 
explanation of the first method are inadmissible as regards the 

Several investigations have been made in the subject of sug- 

1 Condensed from Hoffmann's Modern Magic, p. 205. 


gestions of repetition. Binet * and Henri have experimented 
to see with what degree of precision a person repeats the same 
operation where the circumstances which have explained the 
first operation change a little and require a different act ; but 
where the suggestion remains that the conditions are as at first. 
The experiment was based on the visual memory of lines. A 
model line was shown to a child, then after the lapse of a cer- 
tain interval, a card was shown on which was traced a series 
of parallel lines of increasing length ; the child had to recog- 
nize the line equal to the model line. The operation is made 
two times ; the first time the model line is found in the series, 
the second time it is not found. Thus, the model line being 40 
millimeters, the second series contains no line longer than 36 
millimeters. A practiced eye would perceive the lacuna, but 
the first trial has already created a habit by reason of which 
the child, having found the model line in the first table, strives 
to find it in the second. In children from 7 to 9 years old, 
88% were misled by the "routine:" from 9 to 11 years, 60% ; 
and from 11 to 13 years, 47%, thus showing that suggestibility 
decreases with age. 

Seashore used somewhat analogous methods in investigating 
the subject. His experiments, made upon university students, 
seem to prove them not less easily duped than the children of 
the primary school mentioned by Binet. And it is important 
to observe that even where his subjects acted with knowledge 
they were still subject to the illusion. His manner of pro- 
cedure was to make a genuine experiment several times, then, 
when the association has been formed by repetition, a pretended 
experiment is made and the subject by reason of the suggestion 
responds as before. In illusions of heat produced by first 
sending an electric current through a silver wire held between 
the fingers of the subject, and finally pretending to do so, of 
420 trials there were only five cases where the subject felt 
nothing. Illusions of change of brightness were produced by 
the principle employed by Kuelpe heretofore mentioned, with 
the exception that at a given signal a change of intensity of 
the illumination was first made. 

Complete hallucination 2 of an object was produced in the 
following manner : In a darkened room a little ball is hung 
upon a black background and the distance at which the sub- 
ject can distinguish it is ascertained. The experiment is made 
several times, the subject approaching slowly and pausing at 
the point where he can just see the ball. The distances 
marked on the floor are then read. He then turns back to 

'A. Binet: La Suggestibility . L'annde Psychologique, 1898^.136. 
2 Seashore : Measurements of Illusions and Hallucinations in Nor- 
mal Life. Studies from the Yale Psych. Lab., No. Ill, 1895. 


make the trial again ; at this instant the operator suppresses 
the ball ; the subject advances again and when he finds him- 
self at the same distance as at the previous times he believes 
that he perceives the ball. The point of importance here, as 
Binet has pointed out, lies in the light it throws on the 
mechanism of suggestion. The fact that subjects acquainted 
with the purpose and nature of the investigation, after several 
repetitions of the stimulus, undergo the illusion, seems to 
show that the greater part of the effect lies in the tendency to 
re-excite the centers that have just been in action. 

There is a well known conjuring illusion which closely par- 
allels the experiment last given. In this case, however, the 
image of repetition seems in part to be the effect of an after 
image. The reference is to the trick of causing an orange, 
ball, or card to disappear in the air. The performer shoots 
several cards out into space ; sending some of them even 
seventy or eighty feet up into the gallery. Finally a card 
starts out but is seen to vanish while in mid-air. The thrower 
has in truth repeated the usual casting movement but has 
thrown no card. What the audience see is an image of repeti- 
tion which is undoubtedly partly the effect of a residual stim- 
ulation in the eye, partly a central excitation. For, since a 
frequently repeated sensory irritation, as well as the external 
suggestion of the motion of the hand, is necessary to awaken 
the image of the object associated with the movement it cannot 
be classed as purely central and hence is not an hallucination. 
The conjurer by first really throwing up the card gives the 
suggestion of repetition and following it up by the pretended 
throw causes the subject to see what he desires. We have 
produced this effect in some experiments made with a tennis 
ball (an apple and a silver dollar were found equally effective, 
however). The experiments were performed before the pupils 
of several schoolrooms, also on a number of children and 
adults not included in the results below. The operator sitting 
behind the teacher's desk threw the ball about three feet in the 
air, catching it and letting the hands sink low behind the 
table. The second throw was four or five feet in height. On 
its return it was dropped between the legs but the hands went 
up with the regular throwing movement and were held as if 
awaiting the descent of the ball. 

The conditions for the experiment offered by the open school- 
room were not good, the light was too strong. From other trials 
made in the evening on people of all ages it seems that dim or 
artificial light is more suitable to the production of the illusion. 
This view is warranted also by the fact that after-images are of 
longer duration in dim or artificial light. Observation shows 


also that the colors on a rotating disk fuse at a slower rate of 
rotation in a feeble light. 

After the performance each pupil was requested to write a 
description of what he saw and to state where the ball was when 
he ceased to see it. Two seventh grades, one fifth and one fourth 
grade were visited. Of the 165 children witnessing the experi- 
ment 78 answered to seeing the ball go up and disappear. Of 
the whole number 103 were boys and 62 girls. 40% of the boys 
and 60% of the girls were deceived in the matter. 

A few typical answers are herewith presented: 

1. I saw it come two times. It was about halfway up to 
the ceiling before it disappeared. 

2. I saw it come down, but not the last. It was about one 

3. I did not see the ball come down. It was half way to the 
ceiling before it disappeared. 

4. I did not see the ball come down, but I think it did. 

5. The ball did n't go up as far as the door before it disap- 

6. I did not see the ball come down. The ball went about 
one-fourth to the ceiling before it disappeared. 

7. It was about one yard from the ceiling before it disap- 

8. The last time the ball was going to come down it disap- 

9. The ball went in back of the picture on the wall. 

10. I do not see what became of the ball. All I can think 
of is it went up into the air and did not come down, or, at least, 
I did not see it. 

From the answers given it would appear that the intensity of 
the central image varied with the individual. Many answers 
were ambiguous to such an extent that it could not be said 
whether the ghost of the ball was seen at all, or whether it was 
not seen to make a part, at least, of the return journey. A num- 
ber try to account for the mystery. Such explanations are 
offered as that it was a rubber ball and burst while up in the 

The fact that 20% more of the girls than of the boys saw the 
phantom ball may have many causes. The cases are few. We 
may, in passing, however, quote Havelock Ellis's 1 statement to 
the effect that ecstacy, trance, seeing of visions, illusions of 
fancy and tendency to hallucinations, are more frequent in 
females. Pliny tells us that women are the best subjects for 
magical experiments, and Bodin estimated the proportion of 
witches to wizards at not less than fifty to one. It is certain 

1 Havelock Ellis: Man and Woman, Chap. XII. 


that in numerous trials of this experiment before ladies not one 
failed to experience the illusion, and even previous knowledge 
does not prove a sufficient safeguard. 

These cases of suggestions of repetition cited, both from the 
laboratory and the stage, show plainly that the conjurer's maxim 
' ' to first really do what you would have the audience believe 
you do ' ' rests upon a physiological basis. 

We turn now from suggestions of repetition to psychic phe- 
nomena of a somewhat different though still related type. In 
suggestions of confidence and obedience — in the natural ten- 
dency of the mind to be influenced by means of a hint, sign or 
symbol, an association or kindred stimulus the conjurer finds a 
ready means for betraying the judgment of his audience. The 
two factors to be considered are (i) the conjurer as a suggester 
of ideas, direct or indirect, as means of influencing the mind, 
and (2) the mental condition of the audience. 

The chief quality to be inspired is confidence, and the peculiar 
confidence the artist inspires is a general belief in himself as a 
performer of wonders. As a background for the special demands 
he makes upon their credulity pains are taken to create a mag- 
ical atmosphere. Coming upon the stage to begin the enter- 
tainment he removes his gloves and rolls them into invisibility. 
Instead of borrowing articles for the purpose of his trick he may 
produce them from the nose or beard of some one in the audi- 
ence. Each trick is made more startling than the last, and each 
becomes the pedagogical basis for another till finally the spec- 
tators, lost in the bewildering complexity of wonders, react 
helplessly to the suggestions of the performer, which he helps 
out by the pretended evocation of imaginary spirits, by cabalis- 
tic words, proper use of the wand, in effect, by the artist living 
up to the dramatic possibilities of the role of magician. 

The second point, relating to the suggestibility of the 
audience, may be illustrated by a brief notice of the investiga- 
tions of various workers in this field. In these cases, belief 
that the fact will happen, instead of being instituted by 
repetition, is brought about by the idea being given by speech, 
gesture or implication. 

Small 1 tested the power of suggestions of this class to 
modify the perceptions of school children. He found that 
after some preliminary remarks on odors, in which several 
kinds were mentioned, and having placed labelled perfume 
bottles on the table, when he made a spray in the room of 
water from an atomizer, 73 "Jo of 540 children got an illusion of 
perfume. In experiments of tastes with sugar, salt and quin- 

1 Small, M. H. : The Suggestibility of Children, The Ped. Sent., 
Vol. IV, No. 2. 


ine solutions, after the preliminary suggestions, 88% gave 
judgment that the water was sweet, 95% got the illusion of 
salt and 90% perceived the taste of quinine in the water. In 
many cases they accompanied their judgments with the 
characteristic mimetic movements ; the last being most marked 
in effect, many making the "bitter face." When a crank 
was turned, to which a toy camel was attached by a string, 
76% of 381 pupils saw the camel move although it never did. 
The effect of the suggestions made in these experiments was 
invariably greatest in the lowest grades. 

The result of suggestions made in a tone of conviction or 
authority, has interest for our study as being most nearly in 
line with the conjurer's practice. A hint of any description, 
coming from one who ought to know, in general, produces a 
marked effect. A. Binet * in collaboration with V. Henri, has 
made experiments of this class to show the effect of moral 
authority in influencing an act of memory. A model line of 
40 millimeters in length was presented to a child, who had 
then to find it again by memory, or by direct comparison, in a 
table composed of several lines among which was to be found 
the model line. At the moment of making his choice, the 
operator regularly asks him and always in the same tone, the 
following question : ' ' Are you very sure ? Is it not the line 
by the side of that?" Under the influence of this discreet 
suggestion, made in a very gentle tone, the majority of the 
children abandoned the line first designated and chose another. 
The table of results given by him shows that the youngest are 
most sensible to the suggestion, and further, that the sug- 
gestion is more efficacious when the choice is made from mem- 
ory than when made by direct comparison. 

The aim of the experiment was to determine the mechanism 
of suggestibility and to study the conditions where it succeeds 
best. As a result of his tests, the author deduces the rule 
that ' ' the suggestibility of a person upon a point, is within 
reason, inversely as the degree of certainty relative to this 
point." Vitale 'Vitali 2 who repeated these experiments, 
insists upon the importance of the personality of the experi- 
menter, a factor which will cause great variation in the results. 

Having repeated after some time the same tests upon the 
same subjects, he has found enormous variations. 

Perhaps the closest analogy to the conditions in the audience 
of the conjurer, is found in some later experiments of Binet 8 
and Vaschide upon 86 pupils of the French primary schools. 

1 Binet : La Suggestibilite, L'annee Psychologique, 1898, p. 95. 
2 Vitale Vitali: Studi Anthropologic^ Forli, 1896, p. 97. 
8 Binet : op. tit., p. 98. 


The experiment was intrusted to M. Michael, the director of 
the school. He alone did the speaking and explaining. After 
the preliminary distribution of paper, writing of names, dates, 
etc., he announced that he was going to make an experiment 
upon their memory of the length of lines ; a line drawn on a 
white card was then shown for three seconds to each pupil, and 
each one had then, after having seen this model, to trace upon 
the paper a line of equal length. This having been done M. 
Michael announced that he was going to show a second line a 
little longer than the first; this declaration was made in firm 
well modulated voice, with the natural authority of a director 
of the school addressing the whole class collectively. The second 
line was only 4 centimeters, whereas the first was five. The 
second line was shown to each pupil exactly as the first had 
been. The suggestion was very effective. Nine pupils only of 
the 86 drew the second line shorter, or it can be said that 75 
believed in the word of the master rather than to the truth of 
their own memories. The author asserts as the result of the 
test that normal suggestion constitutes a test of docility, and 
cites the facts given by Bernheim as showing that the persons 
most sensible to hypnotism, that is to authoritative suggestion, 
are old soldiers, government employees, and, in a word, all 
those who have been habituated to discipline. The children are 
in the passive state when they follow readily ideas suggested by 
any one in authority over them, or, indeed, any one who can 
impress them. To a large degree this receptivity is maintained 
throughout life. It is not children alone who are in subjection 
to ideas. Moll 1 says ' ' men have a certain proneness to allow 
themselves to be influenced by others through their ideas, and, in 
particular, to believe much without making logical conscious de- 
ductions. ' ' We are all credulous and ready to accept the answer. 
It is only more noticeable at conjuring shows than at other 
assemblages. In community life there is need of exchanging 
ideas, and while our experience may in time render us more 
critical of our fellows the tendency still persists to take as truth 
ideas advanced from whatever source. This tendency is greatly 
accentuated in a crowd, hence the reason for another maxim in 
conjuring: " always perform to as large an audience as possi- 
ble. " " The mental quality of the individuals of the crowd, ' ' 
says Le Bon, 2 "is without importance. From the moment that 
they are in the crowd the ignorant and the learned are equally 
incapable of observation. ' ' This is proved by a great number of 
historical facts, and is illustrated in the action of every mob. In 
this subversion of the rational element the conjurer finds his 

1 Moll, A.: Hypnotism, p. 219. 

2 Le Bon, G.: Psychologie des Foules, p. 28. 


advantage. He assumes great audacity and boldness and a firm 
belief in himself. These are the qualities which a leader must 
possess who would sway the people and subject them to his pur- 

Were the spectator in an ordinarily critical state he would 
know very well that blowing on a card is not an adequate cause 
for transforming it into another; nor the ruffling of a pack of cards 
a probable means for making a chosen card fly from the pack 
to stranger's pocket; nor the varied use of wand and word and 
by -play a sufficient explanation of the effects produced; yet he 
sees the fact and his mind unconsciously follows the suggestions 
so artfully offered him. He is not at his best intellectually. 
The rational element is in abeyance. 

The suggestibility of the normal state here exemplified finds 
analogies in the negative illusions of hypnotism. Under hyp- 
notic suggestion the subject does not perceive an object which 
is present before him. The same fact appears in the illusions of 
our study. It has been shown that the performer hides, pro- 
duces or substitutes objects under the very eyes of the spec- 
tators, the attention being first drawn off by clever talk or 
feints of movement. For example, in the card metamorphosed 
the change is made in the spectator's field of view — the sense 
stimulation takes place, but does not become focal because he 
has been psychically blinded by withdrawal of attention. In 
hypnosis, in order that the subject may not see the object which 
he is told is not present, another factor, according to Binet 1 and 
Fere\ must be added to the diversion of attention; before it can 
be attained the conviction that the object is not there must be 
first established in the subject, without this the result would 
hardly be attained. It is a certain fact, observable without hyp- 
nosis, to which attention was called while on the subject of pre- 
perception that strong expectation of an effect is very favorable 
to its appearance. 

A difference to be noted is that, whereas, in hypnosis the 
object is not seen only when the operator forbids, in waking 
life to forbid the perception of an object insures its being seen. 

Again, experiments in hypnotism indicate that the sugges- 
tibility of a hypnotized individual increases with the number of 
hypnotizations, but Binet has shown in the work above referred 
to that a second suggestion is less efficacious than the first, and 
this offers a second reason for the rule of the prestidigitator: 
' ' Never repeat a trick twice in the same performance unless by 
a different method," for beside focussing attention in advance 
the force of the suggestion for diversion will be weakened. 

4. Suggestion and the Law of Economy. Another large group 

1 Binet and Fer£: Animal Magnetism. 

49 8 triplett : 

of tricks in which the conjurer takes advantage of his superior 
knowledge of the mental habits of the audience remains to be 
studied. Chief among them are those in which is seen the uni- 
versal tendency to do the thing required in the easiest way. The 
importance of this law in the explanation of a type of suggestion 
will become clearer as we proceed. Some cases of ' ' forcing ' ' 
will illustrate this phase of suggestion. By the term "force " 
in conjuring is meant the whole process by which a person is 
led to choose such card, number or object as the performer 
desires — the subject all the while believing that he is exercising 
absolute freedom of choice. The success of many tricks depends 
on this feature which is accomplished in various ways. Some 
simple cases of forcing which are worthy of recital only because 
of the background of bewilderment they prepare are given 
before entering more at length into those possessing greater 
psychological complexity. 

Where it is desired that a certain number be chosen the forc- 
ing bag is frequently employed. This is a double bag; on one 
side is contained counters from one up as far as desired. On 
the other side the counters are all of a kind. The magician 
brings out a handful from the first compartment to show that 
all are different, and then asks some person to place his hand 
in the bag and choose one, offering him as he does so the other 

A person may be asked to thrust a paper knife between the 
pages of a closed book. In this case all the pages are numbered 
alike, the book being so made up that at whatever point the 
knife is inserted the number of the page is the one desired. 

The following force was used by Hermann in an anti-spirit- 
ualistic slate-writing trick: two slates after being washed with 
a sponge were tied together and handed to a spectator to hold 
over his head. Nine people in the audience were given slips 
of paper on which to write questions. These were then folded 
up and dropped into a hat. A lady chose one from the hat. 
It was read, the slates untied and an answer to it found on one 
of them. Hermann explained that he had suppressed the nine 
questions written by the people in the audience, and had 
dropped in nine of his own all containing the same question, 
hence the lady could not help taking the one desired for the 
trick. There had been a false flap on the lower slate, which 
he had dropped out when they were being tied, and the answer 
was there before the questions were written. 

In a number of feats, of which the Rice and Orange trick 
performed by Hermann is a representative, we have a form 
of forcing which contains another element of psychological 
interest. In this trick rice and orange are made to exchange 
places. We give a somewhat detailed account of it that the 


full effect of the trick may be seen, following in the main Hoff- 
mann's 1 description. The apparatus consists of three japanned 
tin cones about ten inches in height by five at the base, and an 
ornamental tin or zinc vase standing about the same height as 
the cones, and having a simple metal cover or top. Of the 
cones, all of which are open at the bottom, two are hollow 
throughout, but the third has a flap or movable partition half 
way down, inclosing the upper half of the internal space. 
This flap works on a hinge, and is kept shut by a little catch, 
which is withdrawn by pressure on a little button outside the 
cone, when the flap drops down and lets fall whatever has 
been placed in the enclosed space. The cone is prepared for 
the trick by filling this space with rice, and closing the flap ; 
and the three cones are then placed in a row on the performer's 
table, the prepared one being in the middle. The vase con- 
tains in its bottom, a valve, which leads into a false bottom in 
the foot beneath. The vase is prepared for the trick by 
placing an orange in it, and in this condition it is brought 
forward and placed on the table by the performer or his assist- 
ant. A small paper bag full of rice is brought in at the same 
time, and completes the preparations. The performer begins 
by borrowing two hats, and places them one on the other, the 
mouths together, on a chair or table. He then (by palming) 
produces an orange from the hair or whiskers of a spectator 
and places this on another table. He next brings forward and 
exhibits the vase, filling it as he advances, with rice from the 
paper bag, and thus concealing the orange which is already 
placed therein. He calls attention to the genuineness of the 
rice and the simplicity of the cover, and finally putting on the 
latter, places the vase on the ground or elsewhere, in view of 
the audience. He pretends a momentary hesitation as to 
where to place it, and in the slight interval during which he is 
making up his mind he presses up the button within the foot. 
This opens the valve allowing the rice to escape into the space 
below, and leaving the orange again uncovered. The audience 
is, of course, unaware that such a change has taken place. 
Leaving the vase for the moment, he requests the audience to 
choose one or other of the three cones on the table. It is 
essential to the success of the trick that the prepared cone 
containing the rice be chosen. It is then placed on the top of 
the upper hat, if it is the middle one and conjurers tell us that 
in such cases the middle one is nearly always the one chosen. 
The audience are then asked to make a choice of the remaining 
cones and the one selected is placed over the orange upon the 
table. The performer showing first by rattling his wand 

1 Hoffmann : Modern Magic, p. 340. 

500 TRIPLET* : 

within it that it is hollow throughout, and he may even hand 
the remaining one around for inspection. 

It was said that the audience almost always select the middle 
cone and the explanation given is based on that assumption. 

But the question naturally arises, suppose one of the end 
cones is selected instead of the middle one, the trick is spoiled as 
neither of the others will produce the rice. But such is not the 
case, for mark, that the audience have not been asked to choose 
which cone shall be placed on the hat, but simply to choose one 
of the cones. Had one of the end cones been chosen it would 
have been handed around for examination and finally placed, 
not on the hat but over the orange. Then, standing behind the 
table, he requires the audience to make a choice between the 
remaining two, right or left. Whichever is chosen he is safe. As 
the right of the audience is the performer's left, he is at liberty 
to interpret the answer in whichever way he thinks proper, and 
he does so in such a manner as to designate the cone containing 
the rice. Thus, if the audience say the left he answers, " on 
my left? Very good." If they choose the right he says, " on 
your right? Very good. ' ' In any case the cone containing the 
rice is taken as the one designated and is placed on the hat. 
As the audience have, to all appearance, been allowed perfect 
freedom of choice and have actually examined two out of the 
three cones, they are very unlikely to suspect any preparation 
about the remaining one. 

The performer now raises the cone placed on the hat to show 
that there is nothing underneath it, and as he replaces it presses 
the button, thereby letting the flap fall, and the rice pours out 
upon the hat, though it remains still concealed by the cone. 
He next lifts up the cone under which is the orange, and hold- 
ing the latter up, replaces it, but in again covering it with the 
cone makes a feint of removing and slipping it into his pocket. 
Then noticing, or pretending to notice, a murmer on the part of 
the company, he says: " Oh, you think I took away the orange, 
but I assure you I did not. ' ' The company being still incredu- 
lous, he again lifts the cone and shows the orange. ' ' Here it 
is, you see, but as you are so suspicious I won't use the cover at 
all, but leave the orange here in full view on the table." He 
again leaves the orange on the table, but this time on what is 
called a " wrist trap." I,eaving it for the moment he advances 
to the vase, and holding his hands together cup-fashion over it, 
but without touching it, he says, " I take out the rice, so, and 
pass it under this cover" (walking towards cone on the hat, 
and making a motion of passing something into it). " Let us 
see whether it has passed. ' ' He raises the cone and the rice is 
seen. " Perhaps you think, as you did not see it, that I did not 
actually pass the rice from the vase to the cone. At any rate 


you will not be able to say the same about the orange. I take 
it up, before your eyes, so." He places his hands round it on 
the table, and at the same moment presses the lever of the trap, 
which opens and lets it fall through into the table, closing again 
instantly. Keeping his hands together, as though containing 
the orange, he advances to the vase, and holding his hands over 
it, says, ' ' here is the orange which has not left your sight even 
for a single moment. I gently press it so " (bringing the hands 
closer and closer together), ' ' and make it smaller and smaller.till 
it is reduced to an invisible powder, in which state it passes into 
the vase. ' ' He separates his hands and shows them to be empty, 
and then opening the vase, rolls out the other orange, and shows 
the vase empty, all the rice having disappeared. 

There are here two points of psychological interest which, in 
the last analysis, however, are covered by the same explanation: 
1. The reason the middle cone is oftenest chosen, and 2, why 
the performer can interpret the choice to suit his purposes with 
no suspicion of it on the part of the audience. That the middle 
of three balls, cones or other articles, should be oftenest chosen 
is a suggestion to make psychologists pause before placing the 
same reliance in the calculation of probabilities in mental phe- 
nomena that is possible in the realm of physical science. The 
ingenious explanation given M. Binet by the conjurer, M. 
Arnould, is here quoted, with approval, as being in line with 
the correct explanation of a large part of the effect produced by 
the conjurer. He says: " The middle object is oftenest designa- 
ted because it is the easiest to point out. In the experiment the 
performer and the spectator are face to face, if the object to the 
left is designated it will be necessary to add whether the left of 
the operator or the speaker is intended; as it requires but one 
word to designate the middle one he chooses that as more easy. ' ' 
Sidis 2 has made experiments analogous in principle to the per- 
formances under discussion; their end was to influence a per- 
son's choice who supposed himself free. On a large white chart 
were placed six squares of color, each having a dimension of 
three centimeters each way. A black screen covered the whole, 
and the subject was asked to fix his eyes on this for five seconds, 
then the screen being raised he has to choose at once any one 
of the squares of color he wishes. The objects being placed in 
the same straight line, various artifices are employed to influ- 
ence the choice: (1) abnormal position: one square is placed 
slightly out of line or a little inclined; (2) abnormal form: one 
is made in the form of a star or triangle; (3) using a square of 
the same color as the screen; (4) suggesting a color verbally as 

1 Binet : op. tit., p. 143. 

2 Sidis: The Psych, of Suggestion, Chap. III. 


the screen is raised; (5) suggesting verbally the number in the 
row; (6) surrounding one square with a band of color. The 
three methods first named proved most suggestible in the order 
given. The percentage of successes being, to take only the 
cases of immediate suggestion, 47.8, 43 and 38.1. 

In a work by Decremp, 1 a magician of the last century, is 
described a play, wherein a choice is directed when the num- 
ber of objects is much larger. The performer spreads out 
before the audience fifteen packets of two cards, and asks them 
to think of any two by chance, now if he forms a packet of 
two notable cards of the same color, such as the king and 
queen of hearts, it will be more frequently selected than 
another, "for," remarks Decremp ingeniously, "it is easier to 
retain in memory the king and queen of hearts than two other 
cards poorly matched. ' ' 

Here appears again the principle of inertia. Between several 
possible acts, where all are indifferent, that is unconsciously 
preferred which is easiest to perform. In some experiments 
by Binet in his work on suggestibility above referred to, these 
mental habits are brought out but they are too long to be 
quoted here. The same principle, however, appears in the 
different card forces now presented. 

Forcing a single card from an ordinary pack — to be presently 
described — is a delicate manceuver, and while the expert may 
nearly always succeed there are some illusions which depend 
upon the drawer taking a card similar in suit and number to 
one already prepared elsewhere for the purpose of the trick. 
In this case it is absolutely necessary that the card drawn should 
be the right one, and even the most accomplished performer 
sometimes resorts to another expedient to be certain of forcing 
a simple card. This is absolutely insured by a " forcing pack," 
i. e. , a pack in which all the cards are alike. In this case the 
drawer may do his utmost to exercise a free choice but will be 
certain to draw the desired card. Where more than one card 
is to be drawn as in the preparation for the well known trick 
of the " rising cards" the pack may consist, instead of similar 
cards throughout, of groups of two or more particular cards; 
thus, one-third may be queen of hearts, one-third aces of 
diamonds, and the remaining third seven of clubs. It is only 
necessary to offer different portions of the pack to different 
choosers to insure one of each sort being chosen. Where more 
than three cards are required, a tapering pack is offered to 
various individuals in the audience ; as they are gathered up 

1 1 quote from Binet's work on suggestion, not having seen the orig- 
inal work. 


they are placed with a regular pack which has been substituted 
and are thus readily distinguishable. 

The descriptions of the method for forcing a regular card are 
much the same in all works on conjuring from Houdin's time to 
the present. When one wishes to force a card the first precaution 
is never to lose sight of the card in order not to risk confound- 
ing it with another. The card to be chosen is first put beneath 
the pack and kept there while the pretence of shuffling the 
cards is made ; the operator then makes the pass to bring the 
card to the middle of the pack, in which position it is easier to 
force it. These preparations take but an instant, indeed they 
are made while explaining to the audience in a lively manner 
that a complicated experiment is to be given which requires 
that a card be chosen by some one in the audience. The con- 
jurer with light step descends the run-down and approaches 
the nearest spectator, requesting him to take a card from the 
pack which is presented. A certain vivacity of movement is 
useful and strikes short the resistance of a recalcitrant specta- 
tor ; when one is surprised one is more docile. It is best not 
to present the cards spread out but closed, it is only at the 
moment when the spectator advances his hand, perhaps a little 
surprised to see the pack closed, that they are opened for him 
but are not held immovable, a dozen or more cards from the 
middle of the pack are made to pass rapidly before the eyes of 
the spectator and it is in this dozen is found the card to be 
forced. The spectator, in the rapid succession of cards passing 
before his eyes, has no time to choose one in particular, but he 
continues to advance his hand with the thumb and index finger 
spread to seize some card. The operator follows his hand and 
notes the direction of his gaze, very gently he advances the 
pack towards him and puts the very card between his fingers. 
The person mechanically closes his fingers and seizes the card, 
believing that he has drawn it by chance from among all those 
spread out before him. As soon as he closes upon the card, to 
avoid all contrary determination the pack is gently withdrawn. 
"The skill employed in this circumstance," says R. Houdin, 
' ' can be compared to that used in the passes of fencing. One 
reads in the eyes of his adversary his determination and, by a 
turn of the hand, renders himself master of his will." The 
words pronounced are also of some importance. Before prof- 
fering the cards the person is asked to take one from the pack. 
One avoids using the word choose as raising unnecessarily the 
suggestion of independence. It is well, also, to seize strongly 
the cards of the pack except the one to be forced. The spec- 
tator without realizing the intention of the operator, feels a 
resistance and permits himself to seize the forced card which he 
draws more easily. In spite of all precautions the artist cannot 

504 TRIPLET? : 

absolutely control the conditions and the trick sometimes fails ; 
but the practiced conjurer always has a new line of conduct 
ready to follow. 

Binet 1 has studied the different processes involved in this feat 
and makes the following points: i . " The pack is first presented 
closed to hinder the spectator from making his choice before the 
operator has put the cards under his eyes; if he could see the 
cards spread out while two meters away, he could fix his eyes 
on one and hold it by malice or timidity. To avoid this result the 
pack is opened only when it is before the spectator, and he has 
already extended his hand with the intention of seizing a card. 
2. If only a dozen to twenty cards in the middle of the pack 
are made to pass before the spectator, it is to indicate to him 
that it is in these cards that he ought to make his choice. They 
are the only ones presented to him, and it is altogether natural 
that he should not think of taking those which the operator 
keeps under his hand. The choice is then not upon 32 or 52 
cards of the pack, but is limited to a smaller number. 3. The 
cards are made to pass in an unceasing movement, first, because 
this manceuver makes the spectator believe that several cards 
are put at his disposal, and, finally, because then the eyes of the 
spectator cannot be fixed upon any one. ' The play consists, on 
the whole, of rendering particularly difficult the choice of other 
cards, and rendering easy, on the contrary, the choice of the 
card forced. The conjurer acts on the instinct that when we 
are on the point of choosing between several possible acts, none 
of which possess any particular interest, it is the facility of exe- 
cution which determines our choice. Our thought follows, very 
naturally, the line of least resistance.' " 

The same author compares with this feat that of ' ' the card 
thought of, ' ' which depends on the same principle. The only 
difference is that the choice is mental instead of being with the 
hand. The subject is asked to fix his choice secretly upon one 
card of the pack which are made to pass rapidly before his eyes 
while spread out. The artifice of the feat consists in making 
the cards pass so rapidly that the person cannot see them dis- 
tinctly, save one, and that one is the determined card, which, 
by opening the pack a trifle more at this point, is made more 
easily visible. The eyes leap upon this, and the chances are 
greatly in favor of the person choosing it. The reason being 
that "to choose a card by chance it is necessary to have the 
idea in some form. When he sees distinctly only one card of 
the pack he is given an idea which facilitates the work to be 
done. If he wishes to name a different card he must commence 
by ridding his mind of the idea of the former card and then call 

1 Binet: op. tit., p. 107. 


up the idea of another card. This would be a longer and more 
complicated process, but as their exists, it is supposed, no special 
motive for taking one card rather than another, the thought will 
follow the line of least resistance, and he will name the card first 

This law of economy is in evidence in all the activities of body 
and of mind. The biological advantage accruing from it in the 
formation of useful habits is too well known to require state- 
ment. A hierarchy of habits, as Bryan 1 has shown, is a condi- 
tion of progress in the individual and in the race, for, while prog- 
ress comes at the cost of effort, and while it is impossible if one 
yield to the tendency to do the easy, the habitual thing, the 
secret of it lies in making difficult actions automatic that they 
may be used as the alphabets of more complex actions. How- 
ever, the majority of people remain for the most part subject to 
the law of inertia, and in the strife between the routine and the 
critical spirit the triumph of the former is assured. This law, 
shown to exist in forcing tricks, appears throughout the whole 
range of conjuring illusions. To most people, when off their 
guard, it is not an impossibility that an orange should change 
into rice or a ball pass invisibly from one cone to another first 
shown to be empty. It is only when one comes to oneself suf- 
ficiently to bring into use his general belief in the uniformity of 
nature that one escapes from the belief in the miraculous. While 
one is only attending with the lower sensory centers the feeling 
of enchantment is paramount. When anything occurs to arouse 
a suggestion of incongruity this feeling is dissipated. This is a 
reason why a conjurer should never reveal how a trick is done, 
or expose the methods of rivals, such actions give the audience 
an unnecessary clue, arouses suspicions which they would never 
have thought of, and which will remain to spoil the effect of any 
subsequent trick worked by a similar process, and, in general, 
it will tend to diminish the prestige of the performer by show- 
ing by what shallow artifices an illusion may be produced. 


Sociological and Pedagogical Observations. 

Interest in Conjuring Deceptions. The spectators experience 
an undoubted pleasure in witnessing the feats and illusions of 
the conjurer. Evidence of this is seen in the continued exist- 
ence of this kind of entertainment, and especially in the crowds 
attending on them. An analysis of the causes for this pleasure 
is difficult. Some of the elements lie far back in an inextrica- 

1 Bryan, W. L., and Harter, N.: Studies on the Telegraphic Language, 
Psych. Rev., Vol. VI, No. 4. 


ble tangle, others are more on the surface. Of these last 
may be mentioned the general pleasure in witnessing action 
of any kind — in the satisfaction of the craving for spectacles 
which was pandered to by ancient civilizations who found the 
conditions of popular contentment to lie in providing ' ' shows 
and bread." 

Another element is certainly the puzzle interest. Divested of 
all their dramatic and magical features, these feats yet remain 
as puzzles and as such are capable of motivating an intellectual 
curiosity, for the " puzzle 1 activity is an expression of an intel- 
lectual play instinct ' ' with the affective accompaniment of all 
play. The biological uses of this activity are obvious. It leads 
to inquiry into the unknown; to a necessary investigation of 
the environment and the increase of power which comes from 
the acquisition of knowledge and an enlarged horizon. Were 
the performances under discussion, however, merely puzzles, 
public interest in them would be short-lived. The deep lying 
popular interest reflected in modern magical performances must 
be referred back to the remote past. It is undoubtedly, in part, 
at least, an inherited anlage, an interest derived from the awe 
or fear that supernatural ideas have always inspired. In every 
age man has manifested ' ' vague unconscious fears of the un- 
known, of darkness, of mysterious powers, witchcraft, sorcen', 
magic, 2 etc. ' ' The tendency to animism which peoples the world 
with spirits is a force representative of the strongest of human 
interests. Through long ages the workings of the laws of na- 
ture have been to the ignorant an inexplicable enchantment. 
Relying on the instinct for the marvellous — the interest in things 
wonderful — the priests of primitive ages, as we have found, 
were always able to indulge an innate tendency to deception 
and to maintain their claims to superiority. The facts of sense 
presented under the authority of religion were received with a 
veneration due to the miraculous element and worshipped be- 
cause enshrouded in a sacred obscurity. With the advancement 
of science the serious aspect of this religious sentiment has de- 
clined, but the interest in everything claiming a supernatural 
character still exists in a modified form whether ghosts, spirit- 
ualism, hypnotism, or magic. In this, as in other aspects of 
our psychic life, we see that man, though he has sloughed off 
so largely the traits of his ancestors to assume the livery of 
culture, has not cut loose from the habits of the past. In the 
activities of his complex social life there is seen the same play 
of forces working towards the same biological end. We are 
all children at conjuring shows. We like it because we then 

Bindley : "A Study of Puzzles," Am. Jour. Psych., Vol. VIII, p. 
3 Ribot: "The Psychology of the Emotions," p. 210. 


get away temporarily from the shackling logic of our lives. 
The crust of nature is thin, and we easily slump through into 
a state, perhaps analogous to the old conditions when we took 
things for granted; when everything was wonderful that we did 
not understand, and no one but the priest could understand it. 
We cut loose from our higher centers and let the nerve impulses 
run through the easiest channels, as indicated in the last chap- 
ter, and in this passivity there is pleasure. 

The tendency to believe mentioned above, has a legal interest 
because of its bearing on the value of evidence. That witnesses 
in courts of justice may be prejudiced and corrupted by differ- 
ent forms of suggestion is well-known. In the light also of 
what has been said regarding the ease with which the senses 
are illuded, it is seen that the rules for the admission of evi- 
dence are none too rigid, and that the judicial officer, on whom 
their administration depends, has need of special training in 
the laws of mental action. 

Indeed a knowledge of psychology has practical value in all 
departments of life, as showing how perfectly simple in reality 
are some apparently wonderful things. It has been a great 
agent in chasing away superstition. It has given a clearer 
knowledge of the relation of mind and body, and shown how 
bodily functions are modified by mental suggestions, and has 
thus taken away the supernatural character of a host of acts of 
healing, of faith cures, the accounts of which are still given 
out in certain quarters as miracles. 

The general human credulity which has made the profession 
of the conjurer possible is also responsible for a large class of 
adepts which afflict society. These charlatans play upon the 
same weakness of mind as the conjurer. They stand ready to 
adapt themselves to every opportunity; to take advantage of the 
uppermost popular apperception. During the summer of 1899, 
when the public interest in the kissing bug 1 visitation was at 
its height, "in Washington, professional beggars seized the 
opportunity, and went around from door to door with bandaged 
faces and hands complaining that they were poor men and had 
been thrown out of work by the result of kissing bug stings." 
There are always hairbrained financial schemes being exploited 
to relieve the credulous of their means. The South Sea Bub- 
ble, Credit Mobilier, Jernigan Sea Water Co., and other schemes 
promising five hundred and twenty per cent, are historical cases. 
It is the victims of these swindles who maintain the horde of 
fortune tellers and other parasites of society of a similar kind, 
never reflecting that if the power of these pretended seers was 

1 Howard, L. O.: "Spider Bites and Kissing Bugs," Pop. Sci Mo., 
Nov. 18, '99, p. 34. 


real, they would be found actively engaged on the stock market 
rather than up dingy stairways. 

A class of sleight of hand performers obnoxious to law 
abiding communities are the pickpockets. They understand 
quite as well as their brethren of the stage, the mechanism of 
attention. In every large crowd brought together to witness 
an exciting spectacle, they are present to ply their vocation. 
Trusting to the general absorption they work with little fear 
of detection. Their manner of procedure in actively diverting 
attention, however, is somewhat different. They step on the 
toes of their victim, or jostle him while deftly abstracting his 

Pedagogical Observations. Several points of interest to 
education appearing from the study of conjuring may be 

i. The interest of young children in conjuring illusions 
offers itself as a fruitful topic for investigation, both as show- 
ing the time it arises and its nature. From experiments per- 
formed before children, and from observations of them at 
their first conjuring shows, it appears probable that interest in 
the performances as transcending ordinary human acts, does 
not arise in many cases till the age of five or six years or even 
later. The young child sees nothing impossible in such feats 
as a coin changing to two in the hand, etc. He has no intel- 
ligent curiosity because he has as yet no ideas of causality. 
He is like the savage of whom Spencer ' says that he ' ' cannot 
make the distinction between natural and unnatural because 
he has not the conception of causal relations in the abstract ; ' ' 
' ' there being for him no established general truths. ' ' 

2. The lives of the conjurers show that continued success 
in their calling depends upon their ability to constantly 
produce new marvels. To keep pace with the popular hunger 
for the new thing, they are always adapting the latest scientific 
discoveries to their purposes. Old tricks are also often revived 
in new form for the astonishment of the rising generation. This 
inclination to conform to the shifting popular interest is shown 
in the performance itself. A conjuring rule is "in arranging 
the programme make each trick more surprising than the 
last." Obedience to this rule is compelled by the law of 
diminishing intensity of feeling. It is a necessary consequence 
of this law, as Hoffding 2 shows, that repetition must weaken 
feeling, enthusiasm be succeeded by indifference, and if carried 
far enough, by absolute loathing. This law demands greater 
emphasis in education. In those exercises in the child's train- 

1 Spencer, Herbert: "Data of Sociology," Vol. I, p. 97. 
2 Hoffding: Outlines of Psych., p. 277. 


ing where drill still seems necessary, great delicacy is required 
in his guidance, for to maintain the pupil's interest the stimu- 
lation must increase. Adapting for the teacher the conjuring 
rule just given, each illustration must be made more interest- 
ing than the last, but with this safeguard, that it be not more 
stimulating than is necessary to carry the interest ; for over- 
stimulation leaves the pupil indifferent, and in the condition 
of the child who didn't want his toys, but wanted to want 

3. The education of the conjurer presents something of 
value for popular education. The motor training which comes 
from the practice of juggling very greatly increases the effi- 
ciency of the individual, and might well be a part of the pro- 
gramme of instruction. Only one who has acquired some 
degree of skill can appreciate the superior power of the 

4. It is recognized as the correct procedure in pedagogy to 
cause the pupil to bring the proper subjective element to the 
interpretation of the objective facts presented, and problems 
are deemed fit according as they find some correspondence 
among the ideas he already possesses. The conjurer reverses 
this process as has been shown, seeking constantly by the aid 
of all his arts to lead the audience to the employment of the 
wrong apperceptive material ; and the spectator impelled 
along these lines, and finding no solution, is in proper condition 
to be mystified by the denouement. The problem he presents 
is insoluble to most people ; that is the aim of the magician. 
His reputation depends upon his giving his audience nuts 
which they cannot crack. In inclining their minds to take 
the direction of greatest complexity, he contravenes the proper 
theor} r of education. In this, however, he does not sacrifice 
the interest of the spectators as would be the case were the 
same method applied to the education of youth. 

The deep interest in the feats of the conjurer inspires one 
to ask whether it may not profitably lend itself to pedagogical 
purposes. An inspection of the skeloton tricks given in the 
chapter on classification reveals the wide use the artist makes 
of the various scientific principles, and suggests their value as 
illustrative material in the teaching of the sciences. Perhaps 
most can be claimed for the pedagogy of magic in the realm 
of physics. Nearly every important principle in this branch 
of knowledge is exemplified in one or more of the tricks 
given. In the demonstration of the principles of electricity, 
mechanics, hydrostatics, optics, and acoustics, the feats given 
ma5' have an exceedingly important function. Certainly a 
knowledge of their use in the field of magic would give the 
subject added interest. 

510 TriplETT. 

5. The responsiveness of a crowd was noticed by Houdin. 
He says in his memoirs on this point, "How many times 
since, have I tried this imitative faculty on the part of the 
public. If you are anxious, ill disposed or vexed, or should 
your face bear the stamp of any annoying impression, your 
audience straightway imitating the contraction of your feat- 
ures begin to frown, grow serious, and ill-disposed to be favor- 
able to you. If, however, you appear on the stage with a 
cheerful face, the most sombre brow is unwrinkled, and every 
one seems to say to the artist, how do you do, old fellow? 
Your face pleases me, I only want an opportunity to applaud 
you." Substitute teacher in the above, and we have a situa- 
tion found in every schoolroom. Every teacher is in some 
sort a conjurer. She fills the artist's place, and by every look, 
tone, or gesture is a source of suggestion. What ideas, what 
actions shall result, rest largely with her, hence the need of 
teachers of culture who may fill a large place in the plastic 
life of their pupils as gracious inspirers to better things. The 
child by the very law of its development must act on sugges- 
tion, must respond to his environment. If his teachers, his 
parents, or the community do not present the proper sugges- 
tions or do not offer them in a skillful manner, he will react to 
wrong ones. 

Bibliographical Notice. 

The references to authorities cited are given at the bottom of 
the page. In addition, general use has been made of the 
excellent bibliographies of magic given in Hopkins's " Magic 
and Stage Illusions," etc., Burlingarne's "Tricks of Magic," 
Vol. Ill, and Lehmann's " Aberglaube und Zauberei." 


It remains to express my obligation to Dr. G. Stanley Hall 
for the suggestion of the study and for the interest he has 
shown throughout its progress. Also to Dr. E. C. Sanford 
and Dr. W. H. Burnham for their kindly criticisms and